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Buddhists torch Muslim homes in Myanmar

- August 27, 2013 - Updated 130 PKT - From Web Edition

YANGON: Muslims displaced by Myanmar's latest eruption of religious violence picked through the charred remains of their shattered homes as police patrolled the streets Monday, amid concern over spreading unrest.


Hundreds of people were made homeless after about 1,000 anti-Muslim rioters rampaged through villages in Kanbalu, in the central region of Sagaing, on Saturday evening, setting fire to Muslim property and attacking rescue vehicles with catapults.


"It is going to be very difficult to rebuild our houses again. Some people are taking refuge in nearby homes or with relatives," said 40-year-old Muslim Aung San, who was displaced in the unrest.


Myint Naing, a local MP for the opposition National League for Democracy party, told AFP that 160 men and 158 women who had lost their homes had taken shelter in a school.


"They had been living peacefully for many years and this is the first time they saw violence," he said, adding that the situation was now calm.


Attacks against Muslims -- who make up at least four percent of the population -- have exposed deep rifts in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, overshadowing widely praised political reforms since military rule ended in 2011.


Legislators from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) warned in a statement that Myanmar was "on the precipice of widespread inter-communal conflict". Myanmar was not doing enough to stop hate speech, they said.


"The deep underlying tensions are clear for all to see and we feel that the authorities are not reacting sufficiently to what is developing into a perilous situation in Myanmar," said Indonesian MP Eva Kusuma Sundari of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).


A local photographer in Kanbalu told AFP that clashes had ended in the early hours of Sunday, but fires sparked by the riots burned until Sunday evening.


Some 250 police were deployed in the area as well as military personnel, he said.


State newspaper the New Light of Myanmar said the situation was "normal" by Monday morning and authorities were making arrangements to open camps for those who lost their homes. No injuries have been reported.

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