Buddhist extremists have destroyed several houses belonging to Muslims in Myanmar, where the Rohingya Muslim community faces persecution.
On Sunday, Myanmar’s state media reported that police had arrested over 40 Buddhists after houses of Muslims came under an arson attack while President Thein Sein was visiting the western state of Rakhine.
In another incident on the same day, a mob of angry Buddhists destroyed five Muslim-owned houses in the town of Kyaung Gone, about 50 kilometers north-west of the capital of Yangon region.
The mob demanded that police hand over a man suspected of raping a Buddhist girl.
“When we refused their demand, they became angry and started destroying Muslim houses,” said an official with the Yangon administrative office.
Police said on October 2 that five Muslims – four men and a woman – had been killed in the village of Thabyuchaing as hundreds of Buddhists went on a rampage.
A similar attack in the Thandwe area of Rakhine last week left an elderly woman dead, after over 700 Buddhists took to the streets. More than six dozen homes were also reportedly set ablaze.
About 140,000 people, mainly Rohingya Muslims, have been displaced in Rakhine.
Human rights organizations blame Myanmar’s government for turning a blind eye to the violence against Muslims in the country.
Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar account for about five percent of the country’s population of nearly 60 million. They are persecuted and have faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country’s independence in 1948.