At least two people have been killed after clashes between Myanmar's Buddhist and Muslim communities continued for a second night in Mandalay, media reports said Thursday, citing authorities.
The two fatalities reportedly were a Muslim and a Buddhist, and their deaths are being investigated, a police officer told Associated Press. The Muslim man was left dead on the streets after he was reportedly attacked by a mob when he was on his way to a mosque. Since June 2012, when a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered, Myanmar has been plagued by clashes between the majority Buddhist population and its minority Muslims who make up about 4 percent of the population.
"We are investigating this riot and will take action against those involved in the mob attack," Mandalay police chief Zaw Win Aung reportedly said.
Buddhist mobs reportedly drove through the city on motorbikes throwing stones at Muslim-owned shops and mosques, following police officials’ efforts, which began late on Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday morning, to disperse rioters by firing rubber bullets.
The latest unrest between the two communities was triggered by rumors Tuesday that a Muslim owner of a teashop had raped a Buddhist woman, according to Khin Maung Oo, secretary of the city's Myanmar Muslim Youth Religious Convention Center, AP reported.
Police officials reportedly asked the owner of the teashop to close early in fear that his shop might be attacked, but they did not confirm nor deny the alleged rape. On Tuesday, a mob of over 500 Buddhists had gathered in Mandalay, the nation's second-largest city, and attacked Muslim-owned shops and a mosque. Four people were reportedly injured in the mob attack Tuesday.
Win Mya Mya, a Muslim resident and senior member of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, blamed the police, claiming that they failed to control the Buddhist mobs.
According to the Sun Daily, a Malaysia-based news agency, President Thein Sein called for an end to the latest unrest.
"As our country is a multi-racial and -religious nation, the current reform process will be successful only when stability is maintained through the co-operation of all the citizens by living harmoniously with one another," he said, according to Sun Daily, which cited an official transcript. "For the reform to be successful, I would like to urge all to avoid instigation and behaviour that incite hatred among our fellow citizens.”