A rape case believed to have sparked recent riots in central Burma’s Mandalay was fabricated, according to an investigation carried out by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
State media published the ministry’s findings on Sunday, revealing what the government maintains is an elaborate plot of false, revenge-inspired allegations.
On the evening of 1 July, hundreds of Buddhists gathered in Chan Aye Tharzan Township — a majority Muslim area in Burma’s second largest city, Mandalay – after rumours circulated that two Muslim brothers who owned a teashop had raped their Buddhist maid. Riots soon ensued, which lasted for several days and left at least two people dead. About 20 others were injured.
The ministry’s report claimed that the woman who was believed to have been raped was promised payment of one million kyat (US$1,000) to make the allegations against them.
According to the ministry, the woman was in debt after her husband was jailed on drug charges. The report said that two people assisting her husband’s case offered her the money to falsely accuse the brothers because of a personal dispute.
The ministry said that forensic tests performed on the accuser showed “no indication of rape and no external injuries”, and that the woman and the two people allegedly behind the plot are currently in police custody.
The report further stated that the pair were behind another rape allegation brought against a Mandalay court official. The ministry maintained that this accusation was also fabricated. The plaintiff in that case, according to the ministry, is related to the woman who claimed to be raped by the teashop owners.
Allegations against the teashop owners were largely considered the catalyst for the riots that took place the first week of July in Mandalay, which were the latest in a string of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims that has accelerated since mid-2012.
A pattern has emerged over the past two years of local disputes, such as sexual abuse or even arguments, igniting long-existing tensions between the country’s majority Buddhists and minority Muslims. Riots have erupted in several parts of the country, and have resulted in more than 200 deaths and the displacement of about 180,000 people. Muslim communities have suffered most of the damages, though this months’ riots in Mandalay left one casualty on either side of the conflict.