Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Burmese government has launched an appeal for calm, after a new wave of anti-Muslim violence yesterday in Shan state, eastern Myanmar. A crowd of angry Buddhists attacked and set fire to a mosque, an orphanage and a few shops owned by Muslims in the town of Lashio, the curfew has helped to restore calm and now, according to the authorities, the situation is "under control". Police sources report that, at the origin of the attack, are "rumors" that a Muslim set "fire" to a Buddhist woman.
A government official in Lashio, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirms that "a Muslim orphanage and a mosque," along with some shops and "adjacent buildings" owned by the religious minority were set on fire during the assault. The Burmese Buddhist woman of 24, a victim of the attack which then triggered the reaction of the local community, suffered "burns to her chest, back and hands," but her condition "is not serious."
The police have arrested a man (Muslim) of 48, allegedly responsible for the attack on the young woman. At the moment the reasons for the act are unknown. But it has triggered the reaction of dozens of Buddhist monks, who gathered in front of the police station in Lashio to invoke justice.
The spokesman for President Thein Sein has also intervened, launching (yet another) appeal for calm and an end to violence, adding that "there is no place [for sectarian violence] in the democratic society we are trying to build" . Pro human rights activists and Burmese experts confirm that interreligious tensions are "the most difficult challenge" facing the reformist executive - in office since 2011 after decades of military dictatorship - and one they must resolve to ensure a really harmonious development of the country.
In recent weeks, Burmese religious leaders have launched appeals for peace and interfaith harmony. The Archbishop of Yangon Msgr. Charles Bo has spoken of "love and compassion" as "central values in Buddhism, Islam and Christianity" and for this it is necessary to "respect" each other and seek "unity and peaceful coexistence." However, the interventions were not enough to cool the climate of tension and the succession of attacks: in March last 44 people were killed and thousands of Muslim shops set on fire in the center of the country. Since June last there have been repeated targeted attacks against the Rohingya Muslims - considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and non-citizens - upon which Rakhine State has imposed family laws planning "to contain their expansion."