Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tensions in Yangon high as religious violence edges closer

Tensions remain high throughout Myanmar as the body count from the recent sectarian violence in the country rose to 40 on Tuesday.

Soldiers pulled eight more bodies from the wreckage of buildings in Meiktila, a city in central Myanmar, according to state-run media. The soldiers were clearing areas set aflame by anti-Muslim mobs during three days of rioting.

Religious violence has also broken out in Bago, located about one hour’s drive from Yangon. AFP said two mosques and dozens of homes were destroyed. The police have not reported any casualties.

Additional riots have been reported in Yamethin town, near the capital Nay Pyi Taw, where homes and a mosque are said to be destroyed. 

In an announcement Monday night on state television, President U Thein Sein’s administration pledged to make "utmost efforts" to halt the violence and incitement of racial and religious unrest.

"We also urge the people to avoid religious extremes and violence which could jeopardise the country's democratic reform and development," the announcement said.

Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the affected areas of central Myanmar on Friday and deployed army troops to Meiktila. According to UN sources, more than 12,000 people were displaced in the violence. In Meiktila, an estimated 30 percent of the city’s 100,000 residents are Muslim.

Monday's announcement said the displaced would be resettled as soon as calm was restored.

Shop owners in Yangon were urged by local authorities to close on Monday evening by 8:30 pm or 9 pm. Although violence has not yet spread to the city, shops will remain closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to national holidays.