Buddhist mob sets fire to Muslim prayer hall in Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw : A mob of Buddhists set fire to a Muslim prayer hall in Myanmar on Friday, the day that UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee appealed to the government to put an end to sectarian violence, the media reported on Saturday.

An eyewitness said the incident took place in Hpakant town, 652 km north of the capital Nay Pyi Taw, Efe news reported.

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“Buddhist nationalists” demanded the Muslim prayer hall be demolished, saying it had been illegally constructed.

The Muslim community said it would do so only on official orders from authorities, but failed to deter the mob made up of hundreds of people mostly from other towns who bore knives and sticks.

Firefighters attempted to put out the fire but were prevented from doing so by the mob, the source said.

Lee, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, on Friday wrapping up a 12-day visit to the country, called on the government — the first democratic one in over half a century — to end institutional discrimination against the Muslim minority.

“The government must demonstrate that instigating and committing violence against an ethnic or religious minority community has no place in Myanmar,” said Lee, an expert in human rights, in Yangon.

Sectarian violence in Myanmar broke out in 2012 following the gangrape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men.

Dozens of people have since died, and around 140,000 Muslims — mostly minority Rohingyas who are not recognised by authorities, who term them Bangladeshis — remain displaced in difficult conditions in camps in western Myanmar.