A personal feud has sparked another wave of communal tensions in Burma, this time in Hlegu Township, 40km northeast of Rangoon.
Mob violence broke out near Zawgyi market on Friday afternoon following a fight between two Muslims and a Buddhist at Banda Road in the town’s residential Zaygyi quarter. A confrontation apparently turned ugly when the two young Muslims, sons of a local cushion shop owner, attacked a Buddhist youth, the son of a watchmaker, with a pair of scissors.
According to an eye witness, the two assailants then ran into a relative’s snack shop to hide, but a crowd gathered and began throwing stones at the shop. The mob, reportedly Buddhists, demanded the two be handed over and a tense standoff ensued for at least two hours when police arrived at 6pm to apprehend the two Muslim youths and take them to Hlegu police station.
Local sources said the crowd remained on the street and grew in size as word spread of the incident. At around 7 pm, the crowd started throwing stones at a Muslim “biryani” diner close to the market until more than 100 police officers arrived at the scene and dispersed the mob. A number of people were arrested, sources said.
At around 7:30 pm, about 20 rioters circumvented a police line and headed to a nearby mosque where they began throwing stones. Police were quickly deployed and charged the rioters, beating at them with batons. Again, witnesses said, a number of people were arrested.
Police Station Officer Khin Myint confirmed on Saturday to DVB only that the two youths suspected of the scissor attack had been detained. “They have been charged and are being held behind bars,” he said.
At 9 pm on Friday, the Hlegu Township administrator issued a curfew order, citing Penal Code Article 188, barring anyone going outdoors between the hours of 6pm and 6am. The situation was reported to be calm on Saturday.
It has been one year since communal tensions boiled over in Rangoon Division between Buddhists and Muslims. A similar incident happened in Oakkan last April, following a deadly bout of violence in Meikhtila, central Burma, last March.