News / Asia

    Burma Announces Charges, Mass Arrests in Sectarian Violence

    Family members sit with injured Rakhine men as they receive medical treatment at Thandwe hospital , Burma, Oct. 2, 2013.
    Family members sit with injured Rakhine men as they receive medical treatment at Thandwe hospital , Burma, Oct. 2, 2013.
    Burmese authorities say they have charged 93 people in connection with last month's sectarian violence in the western town of Thandwe that left at least seven people dead and dozens of homes burned down.
     
    Government officials in Rangoon says special investigation teams have made dozens of arrests, while 71 people remain at large.

    Officials say charges range from assault to arson and supporting violence between Buddhists and Muslims.
     
    The October violence in Thandwe came as Burmese President Thein Sein toured nearby areas in troubled Rakhine state. His government announced a special investigation shortly after the violence took place.
     
    A relative of Muslim politician Kyaw Zan Hla, who was detained during the violence last month, accuses authorities of favoring Buddhists and unfairly treating Muslims.
     
    "The [authorities] arrested [Buddhist] suspects who were involved in arson, violent attacks, etc..., but they were later granted bail and released," he said. "They said they do not have enough eyewitness evidence. On the contrary, the arrested Muslims have never been granted bail and are still under detention."
     
    However, Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said the president himself ordered a thorough investigation of the incident.
     
    "As we have said before, as far as violence is concerned, we are going take action against whoever committed such a crime regardless of either side," he said. "This is why we have released the situation reports from time to time. Those incidents happened during President Thein Sein’s visit to Rakhine State and the president ordered a thorough investigation and action against people from both communities who were involved in instigating or committing crimes and taking advantage of unfortunate circumstances."
     
    It is not clear how many of those facing charges are Buddhist or Muslim.
     
    Buddhist-Muslim violence erupted in Burma's western Rakhine state last year and has since spread to other parts of the country. The sectarian fighting has killed at least 240 people and displaced 140,000 others, mainly Rohingya.
     
    This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.

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