As regular Moral Compass readers know, Buddhists haven’t just gone on rampages in Sri Lanka recently: they’ve also organized into murder mobs across the Bay of Bengal, in Myanmar (the former Burma), 1,400 miles away.
Today, Swe Win, a reporter for the International Herald Tribune, provides on-the-ground reporting from Myanmar. The pandemonium that eye witnesses described to him is horrific enough that he or his editor headlined the piece “Kristallnacht in Myanmar.”
The violence stemmed from a trivial row over a broken gold clip between a Muslim jeweler and a Buddhist customer last Wednesday morning [March 20]. The brawl, which left the Buddhist customer with an injury to the head, happened in Meiktila, a trading town of 100,000 people at the center of the country, with an army base and no history of sectarian violence. The town’s Muslims have no links to the stateless Rohingyas in western Myanmar; they have a long and peaceful lineage here.
Still, by that same afternoon anti-Muslim mobs were destroying the Muslim gold shops of Meiktila’s market area. Then, in revenge, local Muslims stabbed to death a monk traveling from a nearby village. That murder in turn unleashed a killing spree of Muslims on Wednesday night and over the next two days. “Any Muslim, old or young, including babies, was killed that night,” Myo Htut, an eyewitness, told me this week.
“A Muslim man around 40-years-old had his legs tied to a motorcycle and was dragged on the road. Since he was still half alive after that torture, the crowd beat him up with sticks and then burned him on the motorcycle.” Myo Htut estimated that the death toll from the three days of violence reached around 200. State media put it at 40.
Other witnesses Swe Win spoke with described
…wild mobs — including saffron-robed monks with sticks and knives — hunting down Muslims and torching entire blocks, including at least five mosques, in Muslim neighborhoods.
Swe Win himself appears to be a Buddhist, if his Twitter photo is any guide. It is to his great credit that he’s made no attempt to sweep the atrocities of his fellow Buddhists under the rug.
By contrast, one Buddhist commenter on reddit wasn’t too contrite about his tribe’s violent shenanigans.
History teaches Buddhists that when Buddhism and Islam meet, Buddhists die. … And, no, I don’t excuse [the violence in Myanmar]. I think its horrible. I wish the army would come in to separate the two communities again. However, people have a right to defend themselves as well. [emphasis added]
Read the Herald Tribune‘s account and tell me if the Buddhist brutality seems remotely like self-defense to you.