In Yangon, Myanmar – Mob appears in streets again to show their denial of religious freedom

16th, May 2019

Photo credit – Khit Thit Media

Buddhist mob forced to shut down three Muslim places of worship in suburb of commercial capital Yangon, another sign of broader trend of intimidation and violence perpetrated by ultranationalist groups and latest government failure to uphold religious freedom enshrined in country’s constitution.

Muslims in three neighborhoods of South Dagon Township have agreed to close three buildings which were permitted by Yangon regional government to use temporary places of worship in the fasting month of Ramadan after so called Buddhist ultranationalists putting pressure and threatening to attack if their demand does not meet.

“This is not an agreement and not a negotiation but just forcing us to sign not to conducting prayers”, Wunna Shwe, secretary general of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council, told to Myanmar Now media.

The latest infringement on the Muslim community’s basic right to religious freedom by so called Buddhist nationalists started on Tuseday when a mob of about 200 people, some carrying swords and knives appeared in the streets of 26 Quarter, South Dagon Township before disturbing Muslim congregation and forcing local authorities to shut down temporary place of worship. The group continued their campaign and became more agitated on Wednesday in 64 Quarter and 106 Quarter.

A freelance reporter was attacked and a car was destroyed in yesterday incident.

“Without giving any reason, they said their nationalist groups do not agree the prayer and forced us to shut down the place threatening potential attack if their demand does not meet”, said an unnamed Muslim youth leader to Myanmar Now.

Approval letter from Yangon Regional government to use three houses as temporary places of worship

Muslims in South Dagon Township sent a request letter to Yangon Regional government to grant temporary places of worship in 16 neighborhoods during the fasting month of Ramadan. But authorities allowed three places which were forced to close just 10th day of fasting.

Photo credit – Khit Thit Media

Against Freedom of worship

In March, people in Chauk Township of central Myanmar voted against reopening of mosques in what they call referendum.

Mosques in Chauk, Salin and Sinphy Kyun Townships of Sagaing Division were set alight or destroyed by Buddhist mob in the anti-Muslim riot broke out in 2006 at the time of military regime.

A damaged mosque in Chauk township

Last year, local Muslims in Chauk Township sent a request letter to authorities asking for permission of reopening two Mosques which were seriously damaged in 2006 riot without repairing. Officials from Sagaing Regional government have decided to approve the request in the regional meeting held in October 2017 and instructed township authorities in November 2017 to follow the order.

But township officials delayed the implementation. In March 30th 2019, two neighborhoods – where two damaged mosques are situated – held what they called ‘referendum’ to decide whether local Buddhists agreed or not the government approval. According to the Facebook group of Chauk News – where the voting result is posted – most of the voters rejected the reopening of the mosques. Officials from General Administration Department, Police forces and Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population were participated in so called referendum that goes against the constitution.

In May 2017, two Islamic religious schools in Thaketa Township near downtown Yangon were sealed off by authorities after a Buddhist mob staged a protest against it.

Sources – Myanmar Now
Photo credit – Khit Thit Media

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