Buddhist mobs armed with sticks and machetes burned Muslim homes for a second day in the northern Burmese city of Lashio, contradicting government assurances that soldiers had restored calm.
Scores of young men and boys on motorbikes and on foot were seen marauding through the city. By early evening, shops and homes owned by Muslims were still burning in one quarter, underlining the difficulty President Thein Sein faces in containing mounting religious violence in an era of historic reforms since military rule ended in March 2011.
“I don’t know where the Muslims are. They all ran away,” said Kyaw Soe Win, a Buddhist resident of a mixed neighbourhood where motorbikes and household possessions lay burning in the streets. Nearby, a man with a sword and a stick combed through the remains of one burned-out shop.
State television said a mosque, a religious school and a number of shops were gutted by fires started on Tuesday by Buddhists who rampaged after hearing reports of a Muslim man setting a Buddhist woman on fire and badly wounding her. State media said calm had returned.
Burma has struggled with religious unrest since June last year when fighting between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya erupted in western Rakhine State. That was followed by Rakhine attacks on Rohingya communities in October that Human Rights Watch said amounted to ethnic cleansing.