Anti-Muslim anthem heightens tension in Sandoway

21 September 2014
Local authorities in the Arakanese town of Sandoway have failed to take action against a bus station owner who has been playing anti-Muslim anthems on the terminal’s tannoy system.

A high-ranking member of the town’s Religious Protection group who spoke to DVB on condition of anonymity, said the bus station owner, a Buddhist, has continually played the song “Construct the fence with bones”, which contains lyrics calling for a boycott of Muslim businesses, every day since 11 September.

“The song includes lines such as: ‘We will be faithful to our race, language and religion. We will buy goods only from the shops of our own creed’,” he told DVB. “I don’t know the name of the singer, but this song is well known. The bus station owner is a member of the ma bat tha [a Buddhist nationalist group affiliated to 969]. He was arrested last year after mobs burned the villages of Thabyuchaing and Than. While he and his ilk were in detention, the town was quiet. Now that they have been released, the problems have returned.”

Another local, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that the loud blare from the bus station loudspeakers would be heard at the local police station nearby, as well as the township administration office and education department. But no one had taken action, he said.

At the same time, he said, rumors have been circulating that Arakanese Buddhist extremists were planning to drive all Muslims from Sandoway, officially known as Thandwe.

DVB could not reach the Sandoway chapter of ma bat tha for comment, however police officials said that they had tightened security in view of the heightened tensions.

Currently, the situation is stable. But many rumours have been spreading, so we have beefed up security,” said an officer by telephone. He said that neither he nor his colleagues have heard anti-Muslim anthems being played.

A village elder said that several cars and trishaws were also playing anti-Muslim songs in the streets of the town.

A local teacher and former political prisoner, Maung Myint, said, “Human history has generally developed over the years, but this type of action is a reversal of human nature. I view the persons who are conducting these destructive policies as enemy of the country.”

Sandoway has been a peaceful multicultural city for centuries and has a sizeable Kaman [often written Kamein] Muslim population.

However, following waves of mob violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Arakan State beginning in June 2012, the town was hit by three days of communal riots beginning on 29 September 2013 which left five people dead and five others injured. State media reported that 114 houses, three religious buildings and one gasoline warehouse were burned down, while 482 people were left homeless.

A picture from October 2013 of security forces patrolling the backstreets of Sandoway (Thandwe) after three days of communal mob violence. (PHOTO: Hla Oo)

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