MANDALAY: Thousands of people, some wielding sticks, flooded Myanmar’s second-largest city on Friday as tensions spiked during the funeral of a victim of Buddhist-Muslim clashes that have raised fears of spreading violence.
Mandalay was on edge as darkness fell with police blocking access to some Muslim neighbourhoods in a tightening of security for the central Myanmar city’s second night under curfew, as anger grew following unrest that left one Buddhist and one Muslim dead.
It was the latest in a string of deadly religious clashes that have plagued the former junta-run nation for two years, prompting warnings that the country’s fragile transition to democracy could be imperilled.
Earlier Friday, scores of motorcycles took part in a procession carrying the coffin of the 36-year-old Buddhist man through the heart of the city.
While Mandalay has a sizeable Muslim minority and also plays host to a group of nationalist Buddhist monks accused of stoking tension, it has not suffered religious unrest on this scale in recent years.
Police sources said they were boosting security measures as a precaution in other cities, including the commercial hub Yangon which has a diverse population of religious and ethnic minorities.
Social media users were unable to access Facebook for the second straight evening, amid speculation that Myanmar had blocked the site to curb the spread of inflammatory comment online.
No one from the authorities was able to comment on the issue and the official spokesman, who posts his official updates via Facebook, did not respond to requests for information.
The wife of the Buddhist victim, who was attacked on Wednesday evening, said that she could not understand why the father of her three children was targeted.
A friend of the dead man, who was with him at the time of the attack, showed injuries on his hand that he said were slash marks from a “sword” used by a group of Muslims to kill his friend.
“I will hold a grudge for the rest of my life. If anything happens like this again I will not hesitate to be involved,” said Htwe.
A funeral for the dead Muslim man, a popular local bicycle shop owner, was held Thursday, hours after he was killed while on his way to attend early morning prayers. AFP