Ten villagers, who were found roaming a town in Pegu division armed with sticks during last month’s anti-Muslim riots, were sentenced to three months in jail on Monday for breaking the state-imposed curfew.
A court in Pegu division sentenced the men in accordance with measures installed by authorities to prevent the violence spreading across central Burma.
According to a resident, the villagers were arrested in Paungde township on 27 March amid rumours of an imminent attack by Buddhist mobs. Violence had already engulfed many townships nearby.
“The 10 were given three months imprisonment each under article-188,” said the Paungde resident in reference to the law that allows local authorities to prosecute individuals for violating decrees passed by public servants.
But questions remain over why the men were only charged with breaking the curfew, rather than instigating violence.
The sentences come after Burmese President Thein Sein appeared on national television on 28 March urging the country’s police force to act decisively to prevent or quell any instances of violence that could lead to further rioting.
However, some government officials have complained that authorities are not doing enough to prosecute individuals who instigated and participated in the riots.
During an interview with DVB this week, parliamentary representative in the Lower House Kyaw Min said no action has been taken to prosecute individuals involved in vandalising homes and mosques last month, despite the Pegu division police chief’s promise to arrest and punish agitators.
“The police chief pledged to take action on the rioters – he said 10 had been detained in Zigon town and more arrests would follow in Minhla, Monyo and Gyobingauk. But we just checked with the local residents in those towns and apparently there had been no arrest,” Kyaw Min told DVB.
Locals in Moenyo, Minhla and Gyobingauk towns, which suffered extensive damage during the anti-Muslim riots, confirmed that hundreds of rioters who vandalised homes and properties are still walking free.
According to a resident in Moenyo, although 11 people were arrested in the town last week, they were also charged with breaking the curfew, rather than participating in the riots.
International observers lambasted the Burmese government for failing to to quell the violence that largely targeted Muslim communities in central Burma during more than a week of rioting that spilled across the country’s heartland in late March.