Mob burns Kachin mosque

The Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque in central Yangon. Source: Asean Economist

A mob has burned down a temporary mosque in northern Myanmar’s Kachin State in the second attack on a mosque in just over a week.

Extra police are reported to be guarding the town of Hpakant, the centre of the gem mining trade, after earlier failing to stop Buddhist villagers burning the mosque to the ground.

Last week, a crowd destroyed a mosque in Bago, central Myanmar, in a dispute over its construction.

The UN has warned the new democratic government to end religious violence.

The latest attack took place last Friday, the Muslim holy day, when villagers stormed the mosque and set it on fire.

Villagers said the mosque was due to be removed by Thursday but the Muslim community was reluctant to dismantle it during Ramadan.

Reports said they attacked police apparently trying to protect it, and stopped the fire brigade from reaching the site.

“The problem started because the mosque was built near a [Buddhist] pagoda. The Muslim people refused to destroy the building when the Buddhists discovered it,” Moe Lwin, a police officer, was quoted saying by AFP.

The mob was “wielding sticks, knives and other weapons” before burning it down, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar. “The mob was unresponsive and entirely beyond control. The building was razed by the riotous crowd.”

The situation was now calm and no arrests had been made, he said.

The authorities have been reluctant to launch prosecutions out of fear of stoking further unrest or alienating the bulk of the electorate.

In a similar incident in Bago region last week, Muslims fled their village of Thayel Tha Mein after their mosque was burned down by around 200 Buddhists and a Muslim man was assaulted.

There have been religious and ethnic tensions in the republic since 2012, when waves of violence between Buddhists and Muslims, largely thought to be Rohingya Muslims, engulfed Rakhine state on the Bangladesh border.

Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said she was concerned by reports that the authorities would not investigate last week’s mosque attack.

“This is precisely the wrong signal to send. The government must demonstrate that instigating and committing violence against ethnic or religious minorities has no place in Myanmar,” she said at the end of a 12-day tour of Myanmar.