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Burma Restores Calm After Muslim-Buddhist Clash

  • VOA News

Rakhine ethnic people pray at Shwedagon pagoda June 9, 2012, in Rangoon, Burma.

Rakhine ethnic people pray at Shwedagon pagoda June 9, 2012, in Rangoon, Burma.

Security forces have been deployed in western Burma, near the border with Bangladesh, to restore peace after an outbreak of ethnic violence that left at least seven people dead.

Police and military units restored calm and established a curfew in Rakhine state on Saturday, after overnight rioting between ethnic Rohingya, who are Muslims, and local Buddhists.

State media said at least seven people died in the fighting and hundreds of buildings were set ablaze.

US concerned

The United States has expressed concern about reports of ongoing violence in Rakhine State. A spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, said Washington is monitoring the situation and urges an immediate halt to violent attacks.

The statement issued Saturday also encourages the government to pursue an investigation in accordance with the rule of law.

What triggered violence

Tensions have been high in Rakhine since last Sunday, when a Buddhist mob attacked a bus and killed 10 Rohingya, mistakenly believing they were responsible for the recent gang-rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

Burma does not consider the Rohingya to be Burmese citizens, despite the presence of as many as 800,000 of them in its western region, according to the United Nations.

Burma's government has recently begun implementing political reforms, sparking approval among Western nations who had long called for change. State media have released an uncharacteristically large amount of information about this week's violent incidents.