This week, we discuss a troubling outbrake of violence in Burma at the end of March. We mention the creation of an independent tourist police and finally, we highlight the generosity of Burmese people that still fascinates and enchants tourists.
Burma communal riots
A surge in violence in Burma raises the fears that tensions are worsening between Buddhists and Muslims. In the central town of Meitkila, a dispute between a Muslim vendor and its Buddhist customers turned into a wave of attacks and fires. “Mosques and other Muslim buildings – shops and houses – have been attacked [and damaged] by crowds of Buddhists.” This outbreak of violence has spread to different localities, “on the road from Rangoon to Pyay.” This upsurge in violence echoed the violent confrontations that occurred in November 2012 between Rakhine ethnic minority Buddhists and Rohingya minority Muslims. In areas of conflicts, state of emergency and curfew were introduced.
It seems that the wave of riots has now passed as “anti-Muslim violence finally subsides in Central Burma.” This article states that “No major anti-Muslim attacks have been reported in central Burma since Friday and the unrest seems to have subsided after nine consecutive days of violence, the toll is very heavy, resulting in profound human and economic costs.” Indeed, a total of 43 people were killed and 93 were hospitalized in the riots “while 1,227 homes, 77 shops and 37 mosques were destroyed.” Besides, almost 13,000 people, mostly Muslims, are thought to have fled their homes in the unrest.
No direct problems for tourists have been reported. However, in order to avoid any incidents, the US has warned its citizens to avoid travel to some parts of Burma in the Bago Division, Rakhine State and Downtown Ragoon. The US Embassy also urged its citizens to “stay clear of all demonstrations or public gatherings.”
In response to the growing number of international visitors to the country, “an independent tourist police force has been formed and its officers will begin patrolling tourist areas” in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Shan State and Nay Pyi Taw. The 140 officers will monitor and challenge the rise in illegal tourism businesses such as unprofessional guides.
Last but not least, here is an article of two travelers who traveled Myanmar by bicycle. This article reports their perception of the generosity of the local Burmese people: “We had so many mechanical challenges over the past couple of weeks […]. In every case, without exception, a local or group seemed to appear out of nowhere to offer assistance. They don’t just gather around to watch, but genuinely try to help.”
We invite you to read also the other experiences of cycling through Burma on this blog!
Have all a good week!