NAYPYIDAW – Myanmar's government has appointed a minister and senior police chief to head an investigation into the killing of 10 Muslims by a Buddhist mob that resulted in a flare-up of sectarian violence in the country's Westernmost state.
"There occurred organized, lawless and anarchic acts that can harm peace, stability and rule of law in Rakhine state in May and June," said a statement on the front page of The New Light of Myanmar, the government's mouthpiece, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Thursday, June 7.
At least nine Muslim passengers were killed Sunday after Buddhist vigilantes attacked their bus western state of Rakhine.
|Buddhist Vigilantes Kill Myanmar Muslims|
The attack followed the rape and murder of a woman in the state, which borders Bangladesh, for which three Muslim men have been detained.
Demonstrators have demanded justice for the deaths of the Muslims, which came after leaflets were handed out urging retribution for the young woman's rape and murder.
Residents of Taunggoke, where the killings took place, said the dead had no connection to those blamed for the woman's murder.
Establishing a committee to investigate the sectarian strife and expected to hear its findings by the end of June, the government’s move shows a rare response to civil unrest.
"The government is now marching towards a new democratic society making political and economic reforms... it is also educating the people step-by-step to observe democratic practices," the government statement added.
The probe will be headed by Brigadier General Kyaw Zan Myint, deputy minister at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the report said, adding that the aim was to "expose the truth and take legal actions".
Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi expressed condolences to Muslim leaders and said there was an urgent need for justice and proper law enforcement.
"It is the responsibility of the Police and the courts to take prompt actions against the offenders," Suu Kyi told reporters.
With fears of further violence growing, Suu Kyi urged the nation's Buddhist population to show "sympathy" with minorities following the Rakhine killings.
She echoed sentiments of some Muslims and activists that the killings could have been instigated with the intention of widening sectarian rifts.
“If one problem is not solved, another bigger one will happen,” she added.
Muslims make up nearly five percent of Myanmar's more than 53 million population.
The largest group of Myanmar Muslims is the ethnic-Bengali minority, generally known as the Rohingyas, who mainly live in the western state of Rakhine.
Less numbered are the Indian-descended Muslims who live in Yangon and ethnic-Chinese Muslims, known as the Panthay.
Pockets of sectarian unrest have occasionally broken out in the past across the country, with Rakhine state, which has the largest concentration of Muslims, a flashpoint for tensions.
In February 2001, the then-ruling junta declared a curfew in the state capital Sittwe after clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.
The authorities this week warned against "anarchic acts" after the mob killings and an attack on a police station by an angry crowd in Sittwe.
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