The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a bulletin this afternoon, stating that the Myanmar government had declared a State of Emergency in the Mandalay region – in particular, the townships of Meikhtila, Wundwin, Mahlaing and Thazi.
There has been “inter-communal” violence which has led to the deaths of a number of locals. The government declared the State of Emergency on Friday, 22 March 2013, to allow armed forces to intervene and restore law and order. The violence comes after long standing tension between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.
Mizzima reported on 21 March 2013 that this particular spate of violence began after an argument in a Muslim-owned gold shop turned sour. Up to 200 people fought on the street and several mosques were destroyed before police stepped in to impose a curfew on Thursday night. The number of those killed is at least 20, Zeenews reports.
What this means for us:
At the moment, the violence in the Mandalay region is isolated to four townships. Smart Traveler and DFAT have upgraded the warning status for these townships to “Reconsider your need to travel”.
We are planning to travel to Mandalay City and Amarapura, about 170kms away from the troublesome areas. We are keeping a close eye on the situation and if the violence spreads to Mandalay City, we will not travel there (the Myanmar government would not let us go there if things got that bad anyway). We are also registered with Smart Traveler so our families can find us if something happens. The Australian government can also contact us if the situation changes in any of our planned destinations.
If you are Australian and traveling, you would be silly not to register with Smart Traveler. If you are not Australian, or are traveling long term without concrete plans, you should contact your country’s embassy or consulate at each of your destinations to advise them of your short term plans. It will make it easier for your family and home government to locate and contact you should the worst happen.
Note: Tension and violence between Muslims and Buddhists has been a long standing issue in Myanmar. The Rohingya ethnic group (who are mostly Muslim) have been persecuted by Buddhist extremists in the Rakhine state for months. You can about it here.