At least 13 people have been killed as sectarian riots kicked off for the second day in central Burma’s Meikhtila township.
National League for Democracy member and parliamentary representative Win Htein claimed three people were killed yesterday and several more today after a row at a local gold shop on Wednesday led to rioting in the streets, pitting Muslims against Buddhists.
“Three people [died] yesterday – and today, I saw with my own eyes three more dead bodies and someone else saw seven – about 10 people were killed today,” said Win Htein.
“At least thirteen people in total may have been killed.”
An estimated 600 people have been displaced by the violence.
However, Meikhtila police officials were only able to confirm the deaths of four people as of 4pm today. The officials said one guesthouse had been burned down and at least five houses were on fire as authorities fought to extinguish the flames.
Officials in the area have also reportedly imposed a curfew under article-144.
Mandalay division’s government also formed a commission led by the divisional border affairs minister to investigate the rioting.
On Thursday, US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell said the American embassy was monitoring events on the ground closely.
“I am deeply concerned about reports of violence and widespread property damage in Meikhtila,” wrote the ambassador in a press release published today.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and property in the violence.”
According to the 88 Generation Peace and Openness Society (formerly the 88 Generation Students) leader Min Ko Naing, the group attended a meeting this morning, where they discussed the possibility of working as mediators to help quell the violence.
“We sat in a face-to-face meeting with the [Mandalay] regional government and agreed to work as much as we can to contain the situation and keep it from spreading to other regions – for now, we need to prevent it from exploding further – we cannot allow acts of violence [to occur]. Not at all,” said Min Ko Naing.
“We went to the burnt site, displacement camps and the hospital. We would like to request to all to not spread the violence. Most local residents are trying to prevent the unrest from spreading into town.”
Renowned Islamophobic monk Wirathu also reportedly attended the meeting.
Since ethno-religious rioting kicked off in western Burma’s Arakan state on two separate occasions last year between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Arakanese, sectarian violence has begun to surface in the country’s heartland.
In February, an angry mob of about 300 Buddhists assaulted a Muslim school and local businesses in Rangoon.