Updated: 06/19/2014 02:43 | By Agence France-Presse

Myanmar rights festival cancels anti-Muslim unrest film

Citing fears of fuelling sectarian tensions, Myanmar's human rights film festival said it had cancelled the screening of a documentary about a friendship that crossed religious divides during deadly anti-Muslim violence.

Myanmar rights festival cancels anti-Muslim unrest film

This picture taken on June 4, 2013 shows the burnt pages of religious books scattered across the remains of a small madrassa on the outskirts of riot-hit Meiktila, central Myanmar - by Soe Than Win

Organisers of the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival, which is in its second year and counts opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi among its patrons, said they had decided to pull the film after hearing of criticism on social media.

"Some people are looking for a cause to create conflicts -- we do not want to be their excuse," said the festival's founder Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi of the film "Open Sky" which was due to be screened on Monday and Tuesday in Yangon.

The documentary tells of the friendship between two women, one Buddhist and the other Muslim, as sectarian unrest tore through their central Myanmar town of Meiktila last March.

"The film was about the love and kindness between two women neighbours in Meiktila. The film was promoting peace by showing their protection of each other despite the fact they followed different religions," Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi told AFP.

But he said "many rumours and comments on social media" about the film had caused cinema owners to raise concerns and prompted the cancellation, adding he was "very sorry for the film makers".

Around 50 people were killed, including many children from a local Islamic school, in two days of bloodshed that saw mobs of Buddhists accompanied by some monks rampage through the town and turn Muslim neighbourhoods to rubble. 

Rights groups have slammed local authorities for apparently doing little to stop the attacks. 

Scores of people have been killed and tens of thousands left homeless in anti-Muslim unrest since 2012, as festering animosities exploded into violence in a country that began to emerge from totalitarian military rule in 2011.

Sectarian vitriol on social media has accompanied the bloodshed. Extremist monks have been accused of fanning hatred by campaigning for boycotts of Muslim businesses and restrictions on inter-faith marriages.

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