Police in Myanmar say they have restored order after a riot during which homes and shops, largely Muslim-owned, were burned to the ground in the country’s northwest.
Members of a 1,000-strong Buddhist mob torched dozens of homes and shops in Htan Gone, a village 16km south of Kantbalu town in Sagaing region, following rumours that a Muslim man tried to sexually assault a young woman, according to officials and witnesses.
State television reported that about 42 houses and 15 shops were burned and destroyed in Saturday’s incident, but no injuries were reported.
The riot in Htangon, a village 16km south of Kantbalu town in Sagaing region, began after a crowd surrounded a police station, demanding that the suspect in the attempted assault be handed over, a police officer told the Associated Press news agency.
Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Bangkok in neighbouring Thailand, said this was part of a growing cycle of religious violence in Myanmar.
“This falls into a pattern of violence against Muslims that’s been happening for more than a year now,” she said.
“It seems to start with an isolated criminal act, which rumours say are perpetrated by a Muslim, but then there is mob violence as a consequence.
“These thousand people were carrying swords and spears and singing the national anthem as they moved.”
The predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million has been grappling with communal violence since the country’s military rulers handed over power to a nominally civilian government in 2011.
The unrest, which has killed more than 250 people and left 140,000 others displaced, began last year in the western state of Rakhine, where nationalist Buddhists accuse the Rohingya Muslim community of illegally entering the country and encroaching on their land.
The violence, on a smaller scale but still deadly, spread earlier this year to other parts of the country, heightening deep-seeded prejudices against the Muslim minority and threatening Myanmar’s fragile transition to democracy.