Sunday, October 2, 2011

Defacing of Buddha Images Sparks Anger in Arakan

Sittwe: An act of vandalism against Buddha images by unknown assailants in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State in western Burma, has reportedly spurred anger and dissatisfaction among Buddhists in the city.

Residents reported that the perpetrators had indecorously painted the faces of three large Buddha images in Tharat Oo Monastery near the old cemetery in Sittwe with black oil dregs and wrote the word "dog" in Arakanese writing on the foreheads of the images.

Additionally, the faces of the four-foot high statues of the famous Arakanese King Sandathuriya, the famous Buddhist monk Shin Thiwali, and the famous Buddhist Medic Ziwaka, were also reported marked with the black oil dregs.

"The indecorous painting on the faces of those images were done on the 23rd of September has grown anger among the local Buddhist people who worship with those images. They have suspected Muslims living near the monastery did those blasphemous insults and have already complained of the matter to the chief minister of the state. The problem may become bigger if the authorities do not mediate in the matter," said one of the local residents from Sittwe.

He said five suspected local Muslims have been arrested for investigation by the police after the incident was reported to the chief minister. "Now the people are closely watching the authorities' moves on the matter with great interest. Five suspected local Muslims have been arrested at Police Station No. 1 for interrogation on the matter," he said.

"Such indecorous abuse against the images of the Buddha has never happened before in our area and now the Buddhist people are immensely embittered with those abuses on their belief," he added.

A local political observer, however, said the local authorities may have committed the abuse themselves in order to foment religious riots or divert the public's attention from current political issues in the country. "It is possible that those abuses on the images of the Buddha were done by the authorities to create religious riots or social unrest in order to turn people's attention away from the current complicated political issues in the country. So everyone should be careful about this, said the observer on condition of anonymity.

It was also learnt that anger is rising among the local Buddhists against Muslims after news was spread that nearby Muslims had defaced the Buddha images in the monastery.
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