Ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks and their supporters have forced the closing of two Muslim schools in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, in a reminder that religious strife remains a threat to the country’s stability.
About a dozen monks and scores of supporters gathered last week near the two Muslim Madrasas while police stood by as protesters demanded that local officials close the buildings. The raucous three-hour gathering ended when officials agreed to allow them to chain the entrances of the two buildings, which the protesters claim were built illegally.
It appeared that the madrassas were chained shut largely to appease the protesters and defuse tension, but it was unclear what their long-term fate would be. “What happened today was very, very sad to me,” said Tin Shwe, a Muslim community leader. “This school has been built many years ago and all of our generations took care of it.”
A militant organisation of Buddhist monks, known as Ma Ba Tha, has spearheaded protests against Muslims. Its leaders have been accused of stirring up mob violence leading to the deaths of Muslims and destruction of their property around the country.
Most of the anti-Muslim activities have taken place outside of Yangon, the country’s most cosmopolitan city. In what seemed to be a coordinated campaign, anti-Muslim activists last year pressured local officials to have Muslim institutional buildings declared illegal and torn down. In some cases, the activists occupied and dismantled the structures themselves.