A spokesperson from the Communist Party of Burma has hit back at allegations that they were behind last month’s anti-Muslim riots, after a leading politician with links to military hardliners identified them as “instigators”.
The remark comes after a senior advisor to the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Aung Thaung, accused the group of fuelling last month’s anti-Muslim violence, which claimed over 40 lives and caused wide-scale devastation across central Burma.
“At this time, the government itself is in hot water for the [riots] and since they were actually involved in it, they are having a hard time dealing with it,” said Communist Party of Burma (CPB)’s spokesperson Pho Than Chaung, who added that officials were seeking to punish scapegoats in the riots’ wake.
While the CPB was once the government’s most formidable adversary in the 1970s and 80s, since the party’s precipitous collapse in 1989 the remnants of the group operate in exile out of Kunming, China, and have little influence inside Burma.
According to an interview in the Myanmar Herlad Weekly News Journal this week, Aung Thaung told US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell that socialist agitators had played a role in last month’s rioting.
“[US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell] was asking about the situation in Meikhtila such as how did it happen, etc. So I told him that there are groups of people that are opposed to whatever we do,” said Aung Thaung.
“There are those who are not necessarily underground [activists] but influenced by the CPB. They are the main instigators – it’s very likely to be them.”
Aung Thaung, who is largely regarded as a hardliner within the USDP and has strong ties to the former military government, also blamed the violence that kicked off in Meikhtila on 20 March and protests in Latpadaung on former monks and prisoners.
The National League for Democracy has also accused him of playing a key role in the foiled assassination attempt on Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003.
After more than a week of rioting in late March that affected 15 towns and villages in central, several international observers and civil society organisations harshly condemned the Burmese government for their inaction and inability to stem the violence.
In a press release published by UN envoy Tomas Quintana in the riot’s wake, the special rapporteur said there were “instances where the military, police and other civilian law enforcement forces have been standing by while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes”.
-Additional reporting provided by Shwe Aung.