A Muslim man inspects the debris of his burned house in Htan Gone village yesterday.
YANGON: Hundreds of people made homeless by Myanmar’s latest eruption of religious violence were sheltering in a school yesterday, a local MP said, after mobs torched the homes and shops of local Muslims.
Around 1,000 anti-Muslim rioters rampaged through villages in Kanbalu, in the central region of Sagaing, on Saturday evening, setting fire to property and attacking rescue vehicles. Dozens of houses and shops were left in charred ruins.
“The fires burned until last night, but they have now been extinguished after it rained heavily,” said Myint Naing a local MP for the opposition National League for Democracy party, adding that the situation was calm. He said 160 men and 158 women who had lost their homes had taken shelter in a school after unrest which shocked the local community.
Attacks against Muslims -- who make up at least four percent of the population -- have exposed deep rifts in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, overshadowing widely praised political reforms since military rule ended in 2011.
The latest violence is the first anti-Muslim incident reported in the Sagaing region amid signs that the unrest is continuing to widen.
State newspaper the New Light of Myanmar said the situation was “normal” by yesterday morning and authorities were making arrangements to open camps for those who lost their homes. No injuries have been reported.
The report said 12 people had been arrested in relation to the unrest, which began after a Muslim man was detained on suspicion of attempting to rape a Buddhist woman on Saturday evening.
A crowd of about 150 people and three Buddhist monks gathered at the local police station on Saturday demanding that the accused be handed over to them.
When the authorities refused, the mob attacked Muslim property in the area and the crowd grew in size and ferocity.