News / Asia

Murder Trial Begins for Burmese Buddhists

VOA News
Burma has begun the trial of six Buddhist men accused of killing Rohingya Muslims during an incident that helped spark last year's deadly sectarian violence.

The men face up to life in prison if convicted at the trial in the Rakhine state town of Taungkok, northwest of Rangoon.

They are the first to go on trial for the June 2012 incident, in which a mob dragged 10 Muslims from a bus and killed them.

A local man who did not want to be identified told VOA the killings were instigated by people who did not live in the town.

"We doubt the arrest and alleged charges on those six men.  It’s impossible to kill 10 people by only six.  There were many suspicious things in this accident.  Most of those who were involved and committed the crimes are strangers, not locals," he said.

The killings are believed to have been in response to the rape and murder of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by Muslim men a few weeks before.

Both incidents are blamed for sparking the widespread violence between Muslims and Buddhists that killed more than 200 and pushed tens of thousands from their homes.

Earlier this week, a United Nations human rights envoy toured Rakhine state following another round of violence in the area.

During a tour of camps for displaced Rohingya Muslims, Tomas Ojea Quintana called for the residents to organize to help find a peaceful solution.

State government spokesman U Hla Thein said a plan was in place to rebuild trust between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.)

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