The Herald Bulletin

April 7, 2013

Ex-refugees in Fort Wayne protest Myanmar violence


The Associated Press

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Members of one of the largest U.S. communities of Myanmar immigrants held a demonstration Sunday to call attention to sectarian violence targeting Muslims in the Southeast Asian nation.

About 100 former Myanmar residents who resettled in the Fort Wayne area gathered outside the Allen County Courthouse to protest the violence in their homeland, formerly known as Burma.

Ex-refugee AyeMin Zaphun tells WANE-TV the protest was called to spread awareness about the Myanmar government and extremist Buddhists who are targeting Muslims.

Dozens of people were killed last month when violence between Buddhists and minority Muslims shook the central Myanmar city of Meikhtila. And a pre-dawn fire Tuesday at a religious dormitory at a mosque complex killed 13 children. Authorities blamed the fire on an electrical short circuit, but some Muslims in Myanmar have said the fire was set intentionally.

“We want the world to know that in Burma, innocent people are dying. They’re burning children alive,” Zaphun said.

One demonstrator held up a sign saying “Where is justice for them?” and showing what appeared to be the ruins of the dormitory.

Zaphun said some of the Fort Wayne immigrants will travel to New York City in the next couple of weeks to hold protests there.

Fort Wayne is home to more than 6,000 immigrants from Myanmar, making it one of the largest U.S. communities of Myanmar immigrants. The city was a stop last September during the U.S. tour of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Many of the immigrants are Christian or Muslim.

Occasional isolated violence involving Myanmar’s majority Buddhist and minority Muslim communities has occurred for decades, even under the authoritarian military governments that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.