Violence in Prome (September/October 2001)
Even more intense violence against Muslims occurred in early October in Prome, located roughly 300 kilometers northwest of Rangoon. Eyewitnesses say a crowd of more than a thousand Burmese Buddhists, led by two hundred visiting monks, went on a rampage attacking Muslim homes and shops. A local Islamic leader who witnessed the event said that residents pointed out to the monks those shops which were owned by Muslims, who had gathered in Prome for a religious ceremony that intelligence chief Lt General Khin Nyunt was due to attend.
Many Muslim shop-owners had their properties destroyed. "The military did indeed intervene, but not before forty shops owned by Muslims were destroyed," said a senior Muslim leader. "And the violence flared up again two hours later after the police and troops had gone."
There are conflicting accounts of what provoked this outbreak of violence. Many Prome residents believe the clash was sparked off when a young Burmese girl eloped with a Muslim boy and was forced to convert to Islam. The girl's parents protested to the boy's parents at the local Mosque. Some local residents, however, claim the violence was engineered by pro-opposition forces who wanted to embarrass the government.
The government immediately cut off communication links with Prome and imposed a curfew in an effort to prevent the unrest from spreading to other towns. But, in fact, violence against Muslims did erupt elsewhere, including in Hinthada in Irrawaddy and Pegu.