Two die in Myanmar violence

AFP-JIJI

Two people died and several mosques were destroyed in central Myanmar, police said Thursday, in the worst riots since Buddhist-Muslim clashes rocked western Rakhine state last year.

Around 200 people fought in the streets after an argument in a Muslim-owned gold shop turned violent in the town of Meiktila on Wednesday, the Myanmar Police Force’s Facebook page reported.

The two victims, one of them a Buddhist monk, died after suffering severe burns, it said. Six people had to hospitalized after mobs set fire to several mosques. Police imposed a curfew overnight to control the situation.

A local police officer said calm had since been restored, but a local lawmaker of the opposition National League for Democracy said he could still see smoke rising from the affected residential area. “What is happening now is religious tension,” NLD member Win Htein said. “I haven’t seen this kind of conflict in Meiktila in my life.”

An initial report on the police’s Facebook page said anger spread after one man was injured during the row in the gold shop. The report said a mob then descended on the area and started to destroy buildings.

The unrest comes amid heightened tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar, where communal conflict in Rakhine has left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced since June 2012.