News Column

Burma Declares Emergency in Face of Sectarian Violence

March 22, 2013

Myanmar declared a state of emergency Friday in a central region where clashes between Buddhists and Muslims have left 11 dead and scores wounded over three days.

Dozens of shops and houses have been burned down and five mosques damaged in the worst sectarian violence so far this year to hit the country formerly known as Burma.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in four townships - Meikhtila, Wandwin, Malaing and Tharzi - in the central region of Mandalay, state-run MRTV announced.

"As the regional government cannot perform its administrative duties in these four towns ... it will take the military's help to protect the people," the announcement said.

The fighting broke out Wednesday between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in Meikhtila, about 120 kilometres south of Mandalay.

The clashes were reportedly sparked by an altercation over a hair pin at a Muslim gold shop.

The fight turned into a riot that spread through the city and neighbouring townships, claiming at least 11 lives by Friday, including one monk and one woman, and injuring 59, MRTV reported.

Nearly 30 per cent of the population in Meikhtila is Muslim, an unusually high proportion in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.

This week's sectarian clashes were the worst to hit Myanmar since fighting between Muslims and Buddhists killed at least 180 people and left tens of thousands homeless in Rakhine State in 2012.

Last year's violence was directed mainly against Muslim Rohingyas, a minority group with cultural links to Bangladesh who were made stateless in Myanmar by legislation passed in 1982.

In Washington, the United States urged the Myanmar government and community leaders to restore calm and "foster dialogue." US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was "deeply concerned" about the violence, loss of life and property damage.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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