Two more Muslims have been killed by the Buddhist mobs rampaging through the streets of Myanmar’s second largest city. Muslims make up only four percent of the predominantly Buddhist nation, and they often experience hatred and attacks that displace their communities.
Since 2012, over 140,000 Muslims have become homeless due to the violence inflicted upon them by Buddhist extremists. In order to grapple with these events, the Myanmar government imposed a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew beginning the day after the attacks that left two dead. The Mandalay region chief minister Ye Myint said four people were arrested in response to the deaths, showing they will not allow for this violence to continue.
Myanmar faces intense criticism for their lack of attention to the violence, leading National League for Democracy leader and famed humanitarian, Aung San Suu Kyi, to speak out. She took to Radio Free Asia to share her thoughts. “Unless the authorities seriously maintain the rule of law, violence will grow,” she said. Suu Kyi believes that social media hype has intensified the criticism and instability felt throughout Myanmar. She is not the only person in power to share those beliefs; Mandalay police chief Colonel Za Win Aungagreed is in agreement with her sentiments.
What concerns the international crowd is that Mandalay rarely experiences religious violence, this attack is the first sectarian violence in years. At one point in time, Mandalay represented a point of unity between Muslims and Buddhists where peace prospered and fear was rare.
The president is not taking these attacks lightly. In response to the attacks, President Thein Sein has formed a religious-affairs advisory group that is headed by a former religious affairs minister. This action demonstrates the dissent shown by the government toward the acts committed by the Buddhist extremists.
This was not always the case, however, considering the Religious Conversion Law. This law serves as a reminder of the intolerance for Muslims in the majority Buddhist population. In January of 2014, Buddhist monks murdered 48 Rohingya Muslims as revenge for the death of a Buddhist police officer. The brutality seen in Myanmar threatens its international strength as foreign aid looks closely at the religious intolerance taking place.
– Elena Lopez