Despite usually being at the receiving end of sectarian clashes in the country, a Myanmar court has sentenced seven Muslims to prison.
One of them was given a life term in the killing of a Buddhist monk amid deadly sectarian violence that was overwhelmingly directed against minority Muslims but has produced no serious charges against the members of the country’s Buddhist majority who are usually at the root of most violence in the Asian country.
At least 44 people were killed and 12,000 displaced, most of them Muslim, in more than a week of conflicts with Buddhists that began March 20 in the central Myanmar city of Meikhtila. A dispute at a Muslim-owned gold shop triggered rioting by Buddhists and retaliation by their Muslim targets, and the lynching of the monk after the gold shop was sacked inflamed passions, leading to large-scale violence.
While the violence is now contained, questions are arising over whether minority Muslims can find justice in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar. Hundreds more Muslims have been killed, and tens of thousands have been made homeless, in violence across the country over the past year.
Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, made history as the first leader of Myanmar to visit the White House in 47 years where US president expressed without mincing words, his displeasure over how Muslims are treated in the country.
President Barack Obama praised Thein Sein on Monday for his efforts to lead his country back on the path to democracy, but also said he expressed concern to his counterpart about violence against Muslims in the country. “The displacement of people, the violence directed towards them needs to stop,” he said.