Death toll from Myanmar unrest hits 40: state media

YANGON: The death toll from recent communal violence in central Myanmar has risen to 40 after eight more bodies were pulled from the wreckage of a riot-hit town, state media reported on Tuesday.

The clashes were a stark reminder of the challenge that Muslim-Buddhist tensions pose to Myanmar’s government as it tries to reform the country after decades of iron-fisted military rule ended two years ago.

In a televised statement, Myanmar’s government on Monday called for an end to “religious extremism” that it warned could detail the country’s reform process.

The quasi-civilian government has faced strong international pressure over the unrest.

It was the worst sectarian strife since violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the eight new bodies were retrieved over the weekend.

The bloodshed has raised fears that long-standing religious tensions that were largely suppressed during junta rule could now spread to other parts of the country.

After a state of emergency was declared on Friday and the army was sent into the area, an uneasy calm has returned to Meiktila following several days of violence that saw houses and mosques torched and charred bodies left on the streets.

Elsewhere, however, there were signs of fresh trouble over the weekend with violence on Saturday night leaving more than 40 houses and a mosque in ruins in Yamethin township near Naypyidaw, according to a ward official.

Unrest was also reported in several other villages in the area.