Ethnic-fueled violence continued in Burma’s Rakhine state this week when hundreds of Buddhists ransacked the office of a German aid organization. The Voice of America reports:
Residents said the unrest continued Thursday, with the mob attacking homes and other properties housing members of the aid group.Several Malteser International aid workers remain under police protection.Police say the mob was angry because of reports someone in the Germany-based relief group removed a Buddhist flag in front of the facility.Buddhists have placed flags in the village as part of a protest against the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority group.
Buddhist aggression against Rohingya Muslims has been growing at a steady pace since the country introduced democratic reforms in 2010, with more than 280 dead and 140,000 displaced, most of them Muslims. The government has stoked tensions between the country’s Buddhist majority and the Rohingyas, whom they erroneously insist are invasive Bangladeshi migrants. Last month, the government ousted Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from the province for helping Rohingya.Meanwhile, several proposed bills that, among other restrictions, would outlaw Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men and would place limits on the number of children Muslim couples can have has collected 1.3 million signatures of support. President Thein Sein has forwarded the proposals, which Human Rights Watch calls an “intolerance package,” to the appropriate ministries for further development.As the 2015 Presidential elections move closer, the government may be stoking religious tensions to secure Buddhist votes. Opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, a widely praised champion of democracy, has been criticized in recent months for failing to speak out against the Rohingya persecution.After decades under a military dictatorship, it is encouraging that Burma is in some ways moving toward democracy, however fragile that system may be. But the persistence of an increasingly violent, elite-backed ethnic feud is no sign of a healthy polity.