Another Muslim home in Sandoway (Thandwe) was set alight by a mob on Monday – defying the curfew imposed by local authorities during the latest episode of anti-Muslim violence to flare up in restive Arakan state.
Locals in the well-known beach town told DVB that the mob set fire to a house owned by Muslim resident Than Lwin in Dwarawaddy ward on Monday night, after the family fled the neighbourhood following the outbreak of violence earlier in the week.
“An empty home was set alight while we were deploying security in the town – we have directed the police force to take the culprits into custody,” said Sandoway District’s Administrator Htun Wai.
“Committing violent acts is not in good conduct – the state doesn’t allow it and neither does religion.”
On Sunday, authorities installed a curfew in Sandoway after a Buddhist mob set fire to several homes owned by Muslims in response to the alleged sexual assault of a woman by two men who were rumoured to be Muslim.
According to Htun Wai, the state’s Border Affairs Minister Colonel Htein Lin arrived in the town yesterday to personally supervise the implementation of beefed up security measures in Sandoway.
However, the National League for Democracy’s Sandoway district chair Win Naing said authorities failed to respond to his call after he spotted a mob of motorbikes and two trucks driving around the town on Monday in defiance of the curfew.
“We contacted the authorities and informed them that the [mob] had been going around town causing panic among the residents, but they told us to just leave that for now and that they’ll see to it tomorrow,” said Win Naing, who is also a member of a local taskforce charged with preventing riots.
Lawyer Ko Ni of the Myanmar Lawyers Network said the police were failing to prevent the outbreak of future violence.
“If they can promptly take action on ‘rape suspects’, they should also take action against those carrying out the arson attacks, which is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment. Moreover, if they can take effective action against those violating the curfew, the problems wouldn’t have spread this big,” said Ko Ni.
“The [riots] are continuing to take place across the country because the measures carried out by the Ministry of Home Affairs are disappointingly weak.”
A Muslim resident in Sandoway, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he was concerned for his family’s safety as authorities continue to unfairly target Muslims found breaking the curfew but do little to stop rioters from setting homes alight.
“According to the experience we had in other townships, [authorities] only arrest Muslims who leave their homes [during the curfew], but they would let the Buddhists destroy homes – this makes me very much concerned,” said the Muslim resident.
The resident went on to claim that authorities have yet to take any action against the rioters who have been setting homes on fire since the violence kicked off in the town on Sunday.
Following multiple episodes of anti-Muslim rioting that has spread from Burma’s southwest coast to the Shan plateau, hundreds of people have been killed and more than 150,000 people have been displaced across the country.