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NLD Government Must Protect Muslim Minority in Burma

By Burma Human Rights Network  •  July 5, 2016

(London, 5th July 2016) – On 1st July 2016, a mosque was demolished and burned down in Lepyin village, Lone Khin, Phar Kant Township, Kachin State. Authorities stood by as a mob carrying Buddhist flags and machetes destroyed the mosque. This incident took place only a few days after the destruction of a mosque, Islamic school and cemetery in Waw Township, Bago Region.

The mosque had been operating in the same location since 13th Nov 1991. In 2014, the local authorities built a bridge near the mosque. The mosque lent its land for the free of charge. When the construction of the bridge was completed, the land was returned to the mosque.

Due to the new bridge the price of the land upon which the mosque stands became very valuable. Since then local authorities have been pressuring the mosque trustees to release some of its land to the local authorities but the trustees have refused to do so. Trustees are not authorised to release the land because the land was donated by one Muslim that only to practice religious activities.

On 17th June 2016, local authorities issued an order that the mosque relinquish ownership of some of its land and that three premises built on this land be destroyed. The order stated that the demolition had to be accomplished by 19th June 2016.  Accordingly, on 18th June 2016, the mosque trustees demolished the three structures on the land including the Imam’s residence.

However, the local Buddhist extremist were not satisfied with this action and on 20th June a mob of around 500 people including Buddhist monks tried to demolish the mosque. .

On 21st June, local authorities put pressure on the mosque trustees again to sign an agreement to completely demolish the mosque.

From 22nd June, pressure from the authorities increased significantly.

On 23rd June, local Muslims handed a request letter to state chief minister Dr Khat Aung.

On 25th June, local Muslim sends a letter to President U Htin Kyaw asking him to assist and to protect the mosque from demolishing.

On 27th June, the five main Muslim organisations send a letter to the state Chief Minister Dr. Khat Aung, requesting him to protect the Muslim minority.

On 29th June, local authorities assured the Muslim community that they would protect the mosque and deployed police forces to guard the mosque.

On 1st July 2016, the local Muslim community was finally forced to accept to close the mosque and in return the authorities promised the mosque would not be demolished. However, on 1st July 2016, at 4pm, Buddhist extremists including Buddhist monks carrying Buddhist flags and machetes burned down the mosque in front of the police.

According to eyewitnesses there were about one hundred police at the scene but they made no effort to stop the mob. Authorities blocked the media from taking pictures at the scene.

We feel it is imperative that NLD condemns not only the destruction of the mosque but the inaction of the police. Prosecutions must be made of those responsible and there should be an independent investigation into the police inaction. Based on this investigation disciplinary measures should be made. If not NLD will appear reminiscent of the military regime. It must be made clear whether NLD is unwilling or unable to uphold minority rights and freedom of religion. In either case firm action needs to be taken now by NLD. Inaction by NLD will give a green light to more attacks and seriously affect the international reputation of the new government.

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This post is in: Press Release

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