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The government has formed a committee to investigate the deaths of ten Muslim pilgrims killed in a vicious mob attack on Sunday after religious friction in Burma’s Arakan state draws widespread condemnation.
“The Government is now marching towards a new democratic society making political and economic reforms in the country,” said the front page of Thursday’s New Light of Myanmar. “At the same time, it is also educating the people step by step to observe the democratic practices.”
“There occurred organised lawless and anarchic acts that can harm peace, stability and rule of law in Rakhine [Arakan] State in May and June. [An] investigation committee [has been] formed to expose the truth and take legal actions.”
The 16 member committee, chaired by the Deputy Minister Ministry of Home Affairs Kyaw Zan Myint, will present its findings to President Thein Sein by 30 June.
The announcement comes one day after the government was forced to print a retraction for referring to the victims as “kalar” – a racial slur for Muslims or persons of Indian appearance – in their official appeal for calm after the violence.
Religious tensions have flared in Arakan state after three Muslim men were accused of the gang rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine girl. It culminated in a bloody massacre on Sunday, when an angry mob set upon a bus filled with Muslim pilgrims and beat ten of them to death before setting the vehicle ablaze and defiling their corpses.
The attack has drawn widespread condemnation from political leaders and civil society groups. Yesterday, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi called for the perpetrators to be held to account in accordance with the rule of law. She added that “the majority of the people in a society should have sympathy for the minority.”
Dozens of people rallied in Rangoon earlier this week to protest anti-Muslim violence and accused the government of fanning the flames of sectarian tensions.
Calling for a fair and open investigation, Aye Maung, an upper house parliamentarian for Rakhine State, said it was “important to let the public know the truth”.
“I want them to investigate the issues fairly and in accord with international standards on the fundamental rights of the citizens,” he told AFP.