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Muslim man attacked by Buddhist nationalists in Meikhtila

FILE PHOTO 2013: Soldiers are deployed around a burnt Islamic school in Meikhtila (Reuters)

A Muslim man was attacked by Buddhist nationalists in Meikhtila Township on Monday night. Police say they are investigating the incident but no one has yet been apprehended.

Police Second Lieutenant Theik Pan from No 3 Meikhtila township police station told DVB on Tuesday that the local Muslim man, Hla Maung, had been overheard in his home discussing “religious issues” with a married couple who were potential buyers for his land. The neighbour, a Buddhist woman, apparently told what she had heard to extremist Buddhist monks from the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, widely known as the Ma Ba Tha, who in turn took the matter to the local police station.

Two neighbourhood administrators subsequently called on the married couple, the police officer said, but by which time a crowd had gathered and followed the administrators to Hla Maung’s house.

“We [the police] didn’t see the crowd. We arrived just after the violence,” said Theik Pan. “Hla Maung had already been attacked with bricks or stones. I cannot disclose any further details of the investigation, and we cannot hurry the investigation because it is a very sensitive matter.”

The victim, Hla Maung, is reportedly being treated at Meikhtila General Hospital.

Security forces were subsequently put on high alert in Meikhtila, however the situation is under control, said Theik Pan.

San Win Shein, a prominent Muslim community leader in Meikhtila, said that this incident constitutes a criminal act but does not warrant being classified as part of any wider conflict between Muslims and Buddhists.

“Some people are writing misinformation on their Facebook pages,” he told DVB. “There is currently no [communal] violence here. The township has been peaceful.”

However, the local branch of the National League for Democracy (NLD) said it is preparing to submit a report about the incident to the Mandalay regional government. It said the local police force failed to prevent the violence.

Win Soe Oo, the chairperson of the NLD for Meikhtila Township, told DVB on Tuesday that the incident occurred near the police station, but that officers did not respond in a timely manner.

“The regional government should know the truth,” he said. “And they should handle the matter immediately.”

In 2013, tensions between Buddhists and Muslims flared into violent clashes in Meikhtila, leaving at least 40 people dead and more than 60 injured.