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Myanmar: Who is Plotting the Meikhtila Riot?

For three days, riots raged in the town of Meikhtila in the Mandalay division of Myanmar.

The riot erupted on March 20, 2013 when a Muslim owner of a gold shop had beaten up two gold sellers due to an argument over a broken gold piece. A crowd gathered to help the gold sellers and they proceeded to demolish the gold shop.

A curfew was imposed by the police after a group of people reportedly set buildings and motor bikes on fire in the area. As some Muslims feared for their safety, they requested to leave the downtown. Police and members of the Young Buddhist Association escorted them towards the town stadium.

Photo shared by Mg Byine Oo on Facebook.

Photo shared by Mg Byine Oo on Facebook.

Netizens are actively discussing the issue. Some are spreading hate comments on Facebook while others are expressing their frustration over religious clashes.

Young Buddhist Association posted an image which says “Don't let religious wars happen because of you!”. The caption reads:

Don't allow religious/ethnic hatreds, conflicts and riots to reverse Myanmar's drive towards the democracy route. We believe that lawful resolving of all injustices, conflicts and riots would be the only possible way with least bad effects.

- Young Buddhist Association (Myanmar)

More than 2,000 people shared it in less than 24 hours to warn writers who espouse hatred and whose identities are mostly unknown.

Tun Zaw Anyar Myay warns[my] against a never ending blood cycle [UPDATE: post was recently removed by author]:

Friend, we are also very sad (to hear about this). If we were to carry those conflicts to our next generation, it will be a never ending blood cycle.

Ye Htut, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Information, posted[my] reminds the public about the importance of solving problems in a democratic manner:

While (we are all) trying our best to cure the wounds in such a vulnerable society, why (are they) making effort to worsen the wounds?

I like everyone to understand that trying to solve something with the force of the mob when it could have been resolved by law is not the way of democracy.

On the other hand, some people are asking if the riot was instigated by something else. Thanda Win is suspicious[my] over the timing of the riot noting that violence is always happening in the country whenever leaders are travelling abroad:

1) Whenever Aunt Suu (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) or President is on a foreign trip, riot happens in Myanmar.

2) Whenever an important guest visits Myanmar, riot happens.

Google boss Eric Schmidt was in Myanmar during the weekend.

Ye Min Htun compares[my] his experience during the 1988 uprising with the current situation. He also rejects extremism:

Who are creating the ethnic and religion related conflicts? Who will be affected if such thing is allowed to happen. [...] I condemn whoever is supporting the racial and religious extremism. Extremism is not the solution.

Mg Byine O whose hometown is Meikhtila shared[my] his thoughts on the riot.

The whole day, I felt so bad worrying if the fire reached my home or my friends’ homes [...] If those in Meikhtila can't work for like two weeks, all the villages depending on the town will be in trouble. Just now, my grandma called me and said “How could I sell all the onions harvested?, I'm so disappointed”. That's frustrating. [...]

In Meikhtila, people follow various religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and even traditional beliefs. All are doing business together. We have not had such problem. We have argued with those from different religions but nothing like this. There are many police stations, and once you get into trouble, you would be in jail. [...] Everybody who has been to Meikhtila knows it. Everybody mingles peacefully. Now it is not a religious conflict, but (they) are shaping it.[...] I don't want to hear a military general's announcement saying “The military took over the country”in order to bring a timely halt to the deteriorating conditions all over the country“. Phew…. [...]

Ye Myat Min tweeted a similar thought:

@yemyat91: The mastermind behind all these political unrest is leveraging on small-minded people. Blood and anger has become their cards #Myanmar

Other netizens also condemned the extremists and those who are sharing false news and reports. Moe Zay Nyein even made a list[my] of Facebook pages posting false news and extreme posts using the name of Buddhists and Muslims. Eleven Media, which is a popular local news agency, reported[my] that a news item[my] on BBC Facebook page claiming that 10 people died (as of 21 Mar 2013) was inaccurate.

The Ministry of Information released[my] a report stating (as of 22 Mar 2013, 18:37 local time) that 11 died and 39 were injured. The riots also destroyed 152 houses, 2 cars, 1 government office, 1 motor bike, 2 motor trishaws and 13 religion buildings. To restore security, the ministry issued a state of emergency in the town.

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