Tue 8 Oct 2013
Filed under: Inside Burma,News,Religion
Muslim and Buddhist residents have lived side-by-side in Thandwe’s Thabuchai village for generations. But that peace was shattered on October 2 when Buddhist mobs stormed the town, inflicting shocking damage on the normally quiet community.
‘We begged them not to kill us’
Among the dead was Daw Aye Kyi, a disabled 95-year-old woman who was brutally stabbed in her own home. Her daughter, Daw Zaw Lay Kha, broke down in tears as she recounted how the family was forced to abandon Daw Aye Kyi in their escape from the mob.
“About 40 Rakhine people approached our house. At first they threw stones. We tried to save our mother, who is a paraplegic and always in bed.
“Three people ran at us … We begged them not to kill us but they came into our house. We abandoned our mother. We heard only a brief shout from her, in the last second as we were leaving,” she said.
Daw Zaw Lay Kha and her daughter, Daw Mi Mi Khaing, returned to their home a few hours after the violence. Daw Aye Kyi’s body was covered in stab wounds. “I saw five or six wounds – deep cuts – on her body.”
It was in the afternoon and more Rakhine were coming up again to burn more homes. We left our mother’s body. All we know is that it was taken to the hospital in the evening by the authorities. We still haven’t been back to our house yet.”
The trauma of being targeted by the deadly mob has already become clear. “I can’t sleep and I can’t eat. I can’t be at peace in my mind when I think about how they killed a sick woman who was almost 100 years old,” Daw Zaw Lay Kha.
The violence, Muslims said, was far from spontaneous.
“Only Muslim houses were burned. It was very easy to see which house was Muslim because Buddhists hung their religious flags in front of their homes a few days before it happened,” said Daw Aye Kyi’s granddaughter, Daw Mi Mi Khaing.
Unable to move quickly, the elderly represented easy prey for attackers. U Adu Samat, 89, was also among the dead. “He lived together with his youngest son,” said U Myo Win, another of his sons. “When it happened, my father was alone at home. He tried to escape but he couldn’t run like everyone else because of his age and poor health. He was caught and killed. We found his body in the evening.”
Father-of-three U Myint Lwin, 48, was the youngest victim of the mob. “He [U Myint Lwin] urged us to run away when the outbreak started,” said his wife, Daw Tin Tin Lay, 48. “As we were fleeing, he hurried back on his own to set our cattle free. We didn’t see his body. Someone else found it and told us had been killed as he was leaving the house.”
The family home is now little more than a pile of ashes and the tense situation makes it hard to go near their farmland.
“We found nothing left, everything was burned. We haven’t found our cattle yet. Now we are staying in our relatives’ house in another part of the village,” Daw Tin Tin Lay said. “Our farms are in the other side of our village, close to a Rakhine village. My eldest son just passed the matriculation exam this year and our younger two daughters are still at school. I don’t know what do.”
Another Muslim farmer, U Adu Miyar, was also killed in Thabuchai violence. “We were having lunch at that time,” said his daughter, Ma Yin May Than, 24. “Our father urged all of us to run away. He was alone and they stabbed him with a sharp pole.”