Published on Sunday, 09 June 2013 11:02
Residents of towns across the Mandalay region fell prey to rumours inciting religious riots on Wednesday and Thursday forcing schools to shut down early and concerned parents to carry weapons in self-defence as they rushed to collect their children.
The malicious rumours continued to spread to other townships near Mandalay causing markets and schools to close down in Sagaing Township while security forces guarded the city.
“There are widespread rumours of religious clashes. Nothing is happened in reality. People are now distressed doing their daily routines. I wish authorities take actions against those perpetrators effectively,” said a resident of Sagaing Township, Sagaing region, bordering Mandalay Region.
The rumours reportedly began after a Buddhist monk with mental illness committed suicide in Shwebo Township on May 30. Hearsays of riots between Muslims and Buddhists have been agitating residents of the area in the aftermath the monk’s suicide and threatening to disturb the peace.
Some of the rumours said that explosive weapons and knives were found in townships where Muslim reside, namely Shwebo, Myohla, Kanthargone and Talphopin in the Sagaing region. Many residents are afraid that the rumours might trigger a real religious crisis.
While the authorities in the main cities remain on alert, these sort incidents risk escalating into communal violence in areas where there is little police presence.
“Security should be tighter in villages rather than cities. Most do not go out at around after 7pm here. Awareness is good. But I’m afraid the situation may push a real crisis,” said Sayardaw Tayza, abbot of Golden Lion Monastery.
Similar rumours began agitating people in Magway Region. Children’s parents from villages came to the schools of Aung Lan Township in Magway Region on June 6, carrying weapons, because they heard that clashes were happening near their children’s schools.
Although rumour remains just rumour, there are people who are bent on disturbing the peace by spreading malicious information.
In Mandalay on Wednesday a group of people on motorcycles were reported to have started shouting outside of Basic Education High School No. (3) Inciting clashes between Muslims and Buddhists causing anti-violence police to arrive and disperse the gathered crowd, including agitated parents.
“There is no clash in the city. Everything is normal. The rumour stirred up the parents to come to the city together with weapons. It made a crowd over here. But people are now wakeful and recognize that those are just gossips,” said a parent.
The police say they are taking measures but such rumours are hard to prevent and they encouraged the public to dial for emergency services should they witness any real violence.
“We are carrying out security measures since the occurrence of the rumours. At such a time, the people need to consider if it is true or not. If a sign of violence is found, anyone can dial the police forces, administrative offices, fire brigade,” said police major Soe Nyein.
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