MANDALAY: Thousands of people, some wielding sticks, flooded Myanmar’s second-largest city as tensions spiked during the funeral of a victim of Buddhist-Muslim clashes that have raised fears of spreading violence.
A procession led by scores of motorcycles carried the coffin of the 36-year-old slain Buddhist man through the heart of Mandalay yesterday, as anger grew following unrest in which a Muslim man was also killed.
The violence on Tuesday and Wednesday saw mobs wielding airguns, swords, rocks and other weapons going on a rampage through the central metropolis.
It was the latest in a string of deadly religious clashes that have plagued the former junta-run nation for two years, prompting warnings that the country’s fragile transition to democracy could be imperilled.
Authorities imposed an overnight curfew on Thursday to quell the riots, which left 14 people injured. Police arrested nine people in connection with the unrest.
A reporter at the scene said there was a relatively light security presence in central Mandalay despite the large crowds.
The wife of the Buddhist victim, who was attacked on Wednesday evening, said she could not understand why the father of her three children was targeted.
“They killed him brutally,” she said as she prepared for the funeral.
A funeral for the dead Muslim man, a popular local bicycle shop owner, was held on Thursday, hours after he was killed while on his way to attend early morning prayers.
While Mandalay has a sizeable Muslim minority and also plays host to a group of nationalist Buddhist monks accused of stoking tension, it has not suffered religious unrest on this scale before.
Police sources said they were boosting security measures as a precaution in other cities, including the commercial hub Yangon, which has a diverse population of religious and ethnic minorities.
Unrest broke out on Tuesday after an accusation of a rape of a Buddhist woman by two Muslim men from a local tea shop was spread on the Internet, prompting a crowd of hundreds to gather near the business, hurling stones and damaging property. — AFP