Myan­mar Mus­lims on trial in case of 90 ‘il­le­gal’ cows

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEWS ROUNDUPS -

Three Mus­lim men went on trial in Myan­mar on 10 Oc­to­ber for il­le­gally im­port­ing nearly 100 cows that have spent the last month un­der po­lice pro­tec­tion, in a case Is­lamic lead­ers say tar­gets their re­li­gion.

The cows were in­tended to be rit­u­ally slaugh­tered for the Is­lamic fes­ti­val of Eid al-Adha last month, an event that has be­come a flash­point for Myan­mar’s Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists.

Hard­line monks, in­clud­ing fire­brand Wi­rathu from the Ma Ba Tha move­ment, have railed against the prac­tice and pres­sured lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to ban it.

Po­lice took poses­sion of 92 cat­tle last month when a lo­cal monk, Pa MoukKha, com­plained they had been brought into the coun­try il­le­gally.

They have been keep­ing the an­i­mals in a foot­ball ground north of Yangon for just un­der a month at a cost of some $300 a day -- spend­ing more than $8,000 so far. Two cows have since died.

The monks have drawn de­ri­sion from so­cial me­dia users, who have called the case a waste of pub­lic re­sources in a coun­try where one in four lives be­low the poverty line.

On Mon­day, the three de­fen­dants ap­peared be­fore the court, charged with il­le­gal trad­ing for al­legedly im­port­ing the cows with­out the proper pa­per­work.

One of them, Myo Myint, in his 60s, has heart dis­ease and had to be sup­ported by po­lice as he ap­proached the court­room.

His son, Ye Zarni Tun We, said he was “sure” the an­i­mals were bought in Myan­mar, adding: “We have doc­u­ments for pur­chas­ing the cows.”

The men were re­manded in cus­tody un­til their next hear­ing, while po­lice are still look­ing for more than 30 other peo­ple linked to the case. The cows will soon be auc­tioned off.

Kyaw Nyein, leader of lo­cal Mus­lim group Ulama Is­lam, said the case amounted to re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion.

“They did not act il­le­gally,” he told AFP. “I am not sure whether they tech­ni­cally broke the rules or not, but I think this case is con­cerned with re­li­gious af­fairs.”

Is­lam­o­pho­bic sen­ti­ment has grown in Myan­mar, es­pe­cially since deadly com­mu­nal vi­o­lence erupted be­tween Bud­dhists and state­less Ro­hingya Mus­lims in west­ern Rakhine state in 2012.

Ten­sions flared on Sun­day when nine po­lice of­fi­cers were killed in a series of at­tacks on three bor­der posts, which lo­cal of­fi­cials said were car­ried out by Ro­hingya.

Burmese Mus­lims also com­plain of be­ing treated as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens in their own coun­try, told they are for­eign­ers and legally re­stricted from mar­ry­ing Bud­dhist women.

While Ma Ba Tha has lost promi­nence since Aung San Suu Kyi’s demo­crat­i­cally elected party took power in March, it re­mains a pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal force among Myan­mar’s de­vout Bud­dhists.


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