A mosque was partially damaged in western Burma on Monday evening, after a mob of drunken Buddhists celebrating the full moon festival attacked the building, according to local sources.
Police say they managed to foil the attempt, which took place around 8pm in Arakan state’s Kyaukphyu, but the building sustained damage.
“Yesterday evening, we heard about some people attempting to destroy the mosque and this morning, I went to look at it and saw that some damage had been done,” Htun Naing of the Kyaukphyu Public Network told DVB on Tuesday.
“The mosque was already in bad shape before the incident – all its windows, and the walls of a hall on the side, were damaged.”
He insisted that calm had now been returned to the area, which has been affected by a series of Muslim-Buddhist clashes since last year.
Tensions flared again last week amid a controversial visit by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which local Buddhists have accused of interfering with domestic Burmese affairs by offering support to the stateless Rohingya minority.
“Buddhist Arakanese locals] were planning to stage a protest, when the OIC came to visit, to oppose its plan to open an office in the town and I guess the incident yesterday could be connected to this,” said Htun Naing, adding that security around the mosque has been increased.
An official from the Kyaukphyu police station downplayed the incident and insisted that police acted quickly to prevent further violence.
“It wasn’t that serious – we just had to disperse a mob heading for the mosque,” said the official. “We still don’t know who they were as it was the [Tasaungdai] festival yesterday evening but we are making a list of individuals who might know the [attackers].”
Arakan government spokesperson Win Myaing said that it was just a group of drunken men throwing stones at the mosque.
“It was just a group of men – maybe about 10 – who got drunk on the full moon night and threw rocks at a derelict mosque,” said Win Myaing.
The incident took place just a few days after the OIC delegation left Arakan state, where they had visited both Muslim and Buddhist communities to offer humanitarian support. The visit provoked widespread protests, in which local monks brandished banners describing Islam as a “faith of animals”.
The incident follows reports that two Arakanese men were arrested last week for plotting to blow up mosques across the country.
Some 140,000 people – mostly Rohingya Muslims – have been displaced and at least 200 people have lost their lives since communal violence first erupted last year.