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Tensions are on the rise in Burma after a sectarian attack left ten people dead in Arakan state on Sunday.
Muslims rallied in Rangoon today as state media outlets issued reports asking for calm as the government investigates the bloody episode.
“At present, a law has been enacted for peaceful gathering and procession for the sake of democratic and human rights,” said an article in the New Light of Myanmar’s English edition.
“Nonetheless, such anarchic and lawless organized acts are totally unacceptable.”
On Sunday in Arakan state’s Taunggup township hundreds of people pulled ten individuals off a bus filled with Muslim pilgrims and proceed to beat them to death. The bus was then set ablaze as members of the mob urinated on the victims.
The attack was sparked by an incident in May when three men, two of which were allegedly Muslim, raped and murdered an Arakanese woman.
The Voice journal posted pictures of the today’s rally in Rangoon, where comments took a virulent Islamophobic turn as some users issued slurs and threats towards the country’s Muslim community on the publication’s Facebook page.
“Feed them a pig’s d***,” commented one user on a photo posted on The Voice’s Facebook page.
“We should either kill all the Kalars in Burma or banish them, otherwise Buddhism will cease to exist,” said another user.
“Kalar” is used to describe perceived outsiders within the country, especially individuals with dark skin, but the term often carries a pejorative tone. In the Burmese edition of the New Light of Myanmar today, the victims of the sectarian attack were referred to as “Kalar” instead of Muslims.
Gruesome photographs of the victims of the attack have also begun circulating on the web and have attracted their fair share of negative comments as well.
A joint statement was by published several Rohingya and human rights organisations yesterday in response to the violent episode.
“The government is fully responsible for the law and order situation in the whole country. It should not make the Muslims scapegoats, but it has full responsibility to protect the rights, honour and dignity of all citizens,” read the statement.
The 88 Generation Student group issued as similar statement asking the government and civil society groups to help stop the spread of violence.
“Our Union of Burma has been a country where people of various ethnic, religion and cultures have been living together peacefully since ancient times,” said the statement.
“So we would like to call on leaders of concerned religions, political parties, civil society groups and government departments to help mediate the situation to end the religious, racial riots and to allow every citizen to live peacefully in harmony.”
Arakan state historically has been home to racial and religious tensions, much of which is directed at the area’s Muslim population including the Rohnigya ethnic group.