Amid growing demands that the government take action against perpetrators of a mob attack that destroyed a mosque, officials announced yesterday that no legal recourse will be pursued.
Bago Region Chief Minister U Win Thein told The Myanmar Times that more incidents could be triggered if those involved in the violence that flared in Thaye Thamain village are held accountable.
“If we take action on people, the situation will be bad,” he said.
The June 23 attack in Waw township, Bago Region, saw more than 200 people rush a mosque and physically assault a Muslim man. The mob also ransacked the man’s home, destroyed a Muslim cemetery and damaged a building under construction. Over 200 of the village’s 268 Muslim residents fled their homes in fear of further retributive attacks and the man who was attacked, Abdul Rashid, was held in protective custody at the local police station until the evening of June 28.
The chief minister said the best way forward is to mediate between the Muslim and Buddhist residents of Thaye Thamain in the hopes of stabilising the relationship. He added that the regional government will “supply aid to the Muslim people who suffered in the quarrel”.
“The government is making the best decision possible to handle the issue. We have a plan to fund the building of a new mosque in Thaye Thamain,” he added.
Yesterday the Saudi Arabia-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – an association of 56 member states – pressed the Myanmar government to take action and to immediately investigate the incident in order to bring the perpetrators to justice while ensuring that the victims receive necessary assistance.
OIC secretary general Iyad Ameen Madani said the government must condemn the attack, especially as it occurred during the month of Ramadan. “[The government] must condemn attacks on religious minorities and make it clear that such violence is a criminal offence and will not be tolerated,” he added.
Amnesty International has also demanded that rule of law be enforced in the violence-hit community, and that victims receive effective remedies including reparations.
Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said the government must condemn the criminal offence and any violence against religious minorities.
“Failure to investigate and hold those suspected to be responsible to account would send a worrying message that attacks against religious minorities can continue to go unpunished,” he said in a statement.
Amnesty added that the violence adds yet another incident in a disturbing trend of increasing religious intolerance, which is “often fuelled by hard-line Buddhist nationalist groups, directed particularly at Muslims”.
“[The government must] condemn unequivocally all incitement to hatred, violence and discrimination and take concrete action to protect the rights of all people in Myanmar regardless of their religion,” said Mr Djamin.
U Win Thein responded to the calls for justice by pledging that the government will investigate the quarrel in order to “know the truth”, but added that they will still not be taking any legal action against those involved in the attack.
“We want to be peaceful in the village. Taking action can affect the peace situation between the two communities and I have instructed the police force to submit the report on the quarrel to me immediately,” he said.
U Ibrahim, father of victim Abdul Rashid, expressed disappointment that action will not be taken against the mob that injured his son.
“I wonder why the government won’t take action on people. We lost money as did others,” he said. “But I welcome that the government will help to build a new mosque.”
U Ibrahim confirmed that his son has been released from police custody, and is now recovering with relatives.
The head of the Waw township police, U Ohn Lwin, said Abdul Rashid had been released from temporary protective custody on June 28. He added that the security presence around the village has been increased by the chief minister and that 100 officers are now deployed to ensure no further conflict arises.
The Myanmar Human Rights Commission arrived in Thayel Thamain village yesterday to inspect the situation but the commission members declined to answer questions about the trip.