The army transported terrified Muslim families by the truckload out of a neighborhood in Lashio where overturned cars and motorcycles that had been charred a day earlier left black scars on the red earth.
“We heard things could get worse, so we waved down soldiers and asked them for help,” said 59-year-old Khin Than, who arrived at the monastery Thursday morning with her four children and sacks of luggage along with several hundred other Muslims. “We left because we’re afraid of being attacked.”
The violence in Lashio this week highlights how anti-Muslim unrest has slowly spread across Myanmar since starting last year in western Rakhine state and hitting the central city of Meikhtila in March. President Thein Sein’s government, which inherited power from the military two years ago, has been heavily criticized for failing to contain the violence.
In Lashio on Thursday, Buddhist monks organized meals for the newly arrived refugees, who huddled together in several buildings in the monastery compound.