The unabated violent backlash against Muslims in Myanmar illustrates that President Thein Sein may not actually have full control over his security forces as the country passes through some of its most dramatic changes since the coup in 1962.
The fresh outbreak of anger against Muslims, led by radical Buddhist monks, came in the northern city of Lashio, leaving innocent people dead and properties owned by Muslims in ruins. It shows that atrocities against the community are spreading throughout the country and in most cases the government is failing to take remedial measures.
The scale and regularity of these attacks are taking on the form of “ethnic cleansing” against Muslims, who make up just about 5 per cent of Myanmar’s estimated population of 60 million.
Such incidents are not going to paint a positive picture of Myanmar to the rest of the world as it opens its doors to woo investors after years of anguish under military rule coupled with international sanctions.
Myanmar cannot afford to have further social divisions as it tries to come out of decadesof isolation. The time has come to present a united and democratic face to the world, failing which, there will be too much to lose. The people need to uncover the principles of mutual respect and restraint.
Trivial incidents are spiralling out of control and in the final analysis, the cost for all this will be too large to endure.