Yangon: Myanmar`s government warned today that religious violence could threaten democratic reforms after anti-Muslim mobs rampaged through three more towns in the country`s predominantly Buddhist heartland.
The mobs destroyed mosques and burned dozens of homes over the weekend despite attempts by the government to stem the nation`s latest outbreak of sectarian violence.
In an announcement today on state television, the government pledged to make "utmost efforts" to halt the violence and incitement of racial and religious unrest.
"We also urge the people to avoid religious extremes and violence which could jeopardise the country`s democratic reform and development," it said.
President Thein Sein had declared an emergency in the affected areas of central Myanmar on Friday and deployed army troops to the worst-hit city, Meikhtila, where at least 32 people were killed. According to the UN, more than 12,000 people were displaced. Today`s announcement said the displaced people would be resettled as soon as calm was restored.
Muslims in Meikhtila, who make up about 30 per cent of the city`s 100,000 inhabitants, appeared to have borne the brunt of the devastation. At least five mosques were set ablaze from Wednesday to Friday, and most homes and shops burned were Muslim-owned.
The authorities said they detained at least 35 people allegedly involved in arson and violence. But residents and activists said the police did little to stop the rioters or reacted too slowly, after a dispute Wednesday in Meikhtila between a Muslim gold shop owner and his Buddhist customers brought anti-Muslim mobs into the streets.