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Burma keeps tight security in Mandalay after rioting

March 21, 1997

RANGOON, Burma (AP) _ The largest market in the city of Mandalay remained closed Friday and a curfew was in place following anti-Muslim riots earlier this week.

Tensions eased slightly in Burma’s second-largest city, with fewer security patrols visible, but military guards were posted at several monasteries to regulate the movements of Buddhist monks who participated in the riots.

Still, some shopkeepers in Mandalay, 450 miles north of Rangoon, the capital, kept their stores closed Friday. Residents said armored personnel carriers and army foot patrols were posted at key points to deter further violence.

The Mana Muni Pagoda, which holds a revered Buddha, was swarming with pilgrims and monks applying tiny sheets of gold, they said.

The initial rioting Sunday was triggered by the rape of a Buddhist girl by a Muslim man, the government said. Monks and others vandalized mosques and Muslim-owned homes and cars. A similar riot Tuesday was quelled when security forces fired over the heads of demonstrators.

Two monks were wounded by ricochets in Tuesday’s unrest, residents said. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press in Bangkok that at least one monk had died of gunshot wounds.

The government denied claims by a Thailand-based dissident group, the All-Burma Young Monks Union, that 16 monks had died in custody and that the deaths had triggered the riots.

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962. Mandalay’s 20,000 monks are militant and took part in the 1988 anti-government uprising, when troops killed thousands of protesters.

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