Myanmar police deployed to guard mosque in Kachin state

Hardline nationalists threatened to demolish mosque in northern village if Muslim residents didn’t do so by end of June

Myanmar police deployed to guard mosque in Kachin state

World Bulletin / News Desk

Additional security personnel have been deployed to guard a village in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state after Muslim residents refused to demolish a mosque despite mounting pressure from a hardline nationalist group.

Amid the demands of the Organization for Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, local authorities decreed June 20 that Muslim residents had until June 30 to tear down the prayer hall in Le Pyin village in Hpakant Township.

A police officer from the local police station who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with media, “in addition to us, many security personnel were deployed Thursday to guard the mosque and the village from any sort of harm.”

The officers remained on alert, aware that communal tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in the country's recent past have led to the death and displacement of hundreds of people.

Local Ma Ba Tha members had accused Muslim residents in Le Pyin of building the mosque and other structures in the complex illegally during the two-year construction of a nearby bridge, and threated June 17 to destroy it unless it was demolished by Thursday.

Thein Aung, chairman of the mosque’s caretaker committee, said, “two new buildings were built by the construction company in the mosque compound during the bridge construction -- one for construction material storage and [another] for the construction workers’ use -- and the company donated them to the mosque afterwards.”

Local Muslims responded to the threats by tearing down June 19 the two new buildings and a house used by the mosque’s spiritual leader, or imam, which had stood at the site for several decades.

“We don’t want any problem. Therefore we decided to do so,” Thein Aung told Anadolu Agency by phone Thursday.

Ma Ba Tha nationalists, however, then issued a June 20 ultimatum ordering that the demolition of the mosque be completed by the end of June.

“Authorities are forcing us to do that. It is totally unacceptable for us. The mosque was here since 1988,” Thein Aung said. “We replied we can’t do that anyway.”

Human Rights Watch called on Myanmar’s government Thursday to postpone the planned demolition and to raise the issue on both the state and national levels to find a solution respectful of Muslims’ right to worship.

"Any action to demolish a Muslim prayer hall is a clear violation of freedom of religion,” the group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson said.

“It's absolutely critical that there should be no rash, unilateral decisions taken by local authorities or villagers against this prayer hall,” he said.

Robertson underlined that the government, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, “should set up some sort of early warning, inter-agency monitoring committee for situations like this, recognizing that in some communities all that is needed is one foolish act like demolishing a prayer hall to cause tensions between Muslim and Buddhist communities to flare into violence.”

He added that such a committee “should have the ability to order the police to be deployed quickly to maintain the peace."

In June 2012, tensions between Buddhists and Muslims saw violence engulf parts of western Rakhine State, leaving 200 dead and displaced thousands, and eventually spreading to other areas of the country such as central Mandalay.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Haziran 2016, 16:31