Naypyidaw: Nine Muslims were killed earlier this week in the western state of Myanmar, Rakhine, as the Buddhist vigilantes attacked a passenger bus and targeted only Muslim passengers.
According to the police, a passenger bus was besieged near Taunggoke town in Rakhine state by the Buddhist vigilantes and they opened fire on the Muslim travelers only. One of the deceased Muslim was traveling in a separate car.
As per local residents and politicians, the Buddhist vigilantes targeted the Muslims only as they believed that some of the passengers were involved in the murder of a Buddhist woman a week ago after being gang-raped.
The recent attack of communal nature is the deadliest since a reformist government took power a year ago in the region which is already a home of communal and sectarian violence.
The largest population of Muslims in Myanmar lives in Rakhine state but they frequently experience resentment from the Buddhist majority. Especially, Rohingya Muslims are the targets of Buddhist’s hatred who have been living in the region for generations since 1820s when then colonial power, Britain, brought them in Myanmar as laborers.
A Muslim human rights activist who belongs to an opposition party, Ko Kyaw Lay, claimed that there was no member of Rohingya Muslims in the killed ones.
However, Police was unable to immediately confirm all the details of the sad incident.
A police official on the condition of anonymity stated, “An investigation is underway but I can’t give you any further details.”
A resident of Taunggoke, Kyaw Min, commented on the bus attack case that the Buddhists “were angered by the authorities’ handling” of an attack on a woman who, as per locals, was raped by several men before being killed.
On request of anonymity, several residents mentioned that the Muslims targeted in the bus attack were not locals but they were on a visit to Rakhine state. They believed that those killed may not have been involved in the alleged gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.
In a separate incident, 10 people were killed and wounded in a protest rally in the Rakhine capital, Sittwe.
According to the witnesses, the riot police tried to break up the protest and opened fire on them. There were around 200 protestors in the rally but it was not related to the attack on bus in another town of the same state, they added.
The witnesses informed that the police opened aerial firing when the protestors pelted stones on them. A 13-year-old novice monk was also wounded by the aerial firing.
Myanmar is one of Southeast Asia’s most ethnically diverse countries, where sectarian and ethnic tensions still persist, despite a new political climate and broad reforms by a civilian-led government that says it has made peace and national unity a priority since it replaced a military junta 15 months ago.