Two Buddhists have been jailed in Myanmar for murders that took place during religious violence in March. They are the first Buddhists to be convicted of any serious offence relating to the rioting, which mainly targeted Muslims and left around 40 people dead.
The two men, aged 24 and 21, were convicted in separate trials and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Meiktila, district chairman of Tin Maung Soe told news agency AFP, “He was found at the scene where some people were killed during the unrest in Meiktila. That is why he was charged with murder.”
Around ten Muslims have also been jailed for offences during the clashes; they received sentences ranging between 2 and 28 years.
In March, mobs of Rakhine Buddhists, enraged by the killing of a monk, set fire to Rohingya Muslim areas. Police were dispatched to evacuate local Muslims, including some from a local Islamic school. As those people were being taken to police vehicles, a group of Buddhists attacked and murdered some 20 students and 4 teachers.
According to AFP , one pupil was decapitated and several were burned alive. The news agency claim to have video footage, given to them by activists, showing graphic images of the murder in which robed Buddhist monks also took part in the killings.
That most recent violence followed months of sectarian clashes that had reached a peak in 2012, when more than 200 people died and thousands were displaced. Following the unrest, the government is reported to have destroyed mosques, made mass arrests and forcibly relocated the Muslim populations.
A report released in April by Human Rights Watch claims the Burmese government and local authorities have engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. An estimated 800,000 stateless Rohingyas live in Mynamar, where authorities restrict their movements and access to employment.
In some provinces Muslims have been ordered not to have more than two children, the government claim the restrictions would ease tensions between the two religious groups.