The camp where I live, which is guarded by policemen, is located about 15 kilometres from Meikhtila. We have enough space, and enough to eat – mostly rice and water, which is brought in from outside. The food is given either by Muslim organisations, or by private donors, which are usually Muslim as well.
However, we are not free to go in and out of the camp as we please. We must get permission from the police. But anyhow, we don’t dare go out much. Nobody goes out alone during the day, and at night we stay in the camp. The women don’t go out at all anymore, after several of them said they were threatened with rape outside the camp.
“We have to try to forgive and forget”
I have not been able to go back to work since the attacks. I hope I will be able to do so soon, because I don’t have much money left. The day the riots started, I was just coming back from Mandalay. I saw several groups of people setting fire to mosques and attacking Muslim-owned stores. I managed to get to my house but I wasn’t able to grab much, just a few items made of gold and silver. My wife and I got on my motorcycle and drove directly to Yin Daw, which is about 15 kilometres away. Many other Muslims who didn’t have motorcycles or cars were fleeing by foot. Those who did have vehicles helped out those who were sick and old. About 500 people fled on that first night. Buddhists living along the road gave us food and water.
When the violence died down, I went back to check on my house in Meikhtila. There was nothing left. Everything had been stolen: our clothes, our tableware, our rice, our cooking oil…everything. I learned that one of my brothers had been killed. I don’t want to think about it anymore, because it makes me feel vengeful. We have to try to forgive and forget, and avoid any more violence.
I approve of Thein Sein’s government, but the military should do more to help control the situation in Meikhtila. The police did not intervene strongly enough during the riots. And if no action is taken against those responsible for the violence, we fear it will come back. Even if it doesn’t, we are still worried that Buddhist extremists will try to keep up from rebuilding our mosques and our homes, and that they will try to make it so Buddhists and Muslims can no longer live side by side.