YANGON, Myanmar >> The alleged rape of a Buddhist woman by two Muslim men that triggered religious violence in the central Myanmar city of Mandalay was fabricated, authorities said Sunday.
A Home Ministry announcement published in the Myanma Ahlin newspaper said a third Muslim man had sought to frame the two owners of a tea shop because he blamed them for his being charged earlier with the rape of one of his female employees.
The unrest earlier this month was tamped down after a few days, but demonstrated how volatile ethnic and religious tensions remain in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, where several hundred people have been killed since 2012 in sectarian violence.
Rumors that the tea shop owners had raped one of their employees set off attacks on Muslims and mayhem over several days that left one Buddhist and one Muslim man dead, 14 other people injured and property damaged.
A nighttime curfew was imposed, and 49 people were charged with murder, grievous hurt, arson and disrupting public order, while a few hundred others received warnings for breaking curfew-related regulations.
The Home Ministry’s report said the woman who filed the rape complaint with police and claimed to have been employed by the tea shop owners confessed that she was promised $1,000 and carefully coached to make her rape claim. It did not identify her religion, and said she never had worked at the tea shop.
It said the middlemen who organized the affair were also believed to have arranged another fake rape incident against a court official against whom they bore a grudge. The woman knew them because they had offered to help get her husband acquitted of a drug charge.
The past few years of sectarian tensions originated with another rape case in 2012 in the western state of Rakhine. Although some details of the rape remain murky, it set of a wave of rioting that has left up to 280 people dead and 140,000 others homeless, most of them Muslims attacked by Buddhist extremists. Tensions remain high in the area.