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Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

A state of emergency has been imposed in the Burmese town of Meiktila following three days of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

A statement announcing the decision on behalf of President Thein Sein was broadcast on state television.

He said that the move would enable the military to help restore order in the riot-hit town, south of Mandalay.

At least 20 people are reported to have been killed since the violence began, but exact figures are unclear.

A BBC reporter who has just returned from the town said he saw about 20 Muslim bodies, which local men were trying to destroy by burning.

Meiktila MP Win Thein told the BBC Burmese service that scores of mostly Buddhist people accused of being involved in the violence had been arrested by police.

He said that he saw the bodies of eight people who had been killed in violence in the town on Friday morning. Many Muslims had fled gangs of Buddhist youths, he said, while other Muslims were in hiding.

Mr Win said that that violence that recurred on Friday morning has now receded, although the atmosphere in Meiktila remains tense.

Police say that at least 15 Buddhist monks on Friday burnt down a house belonging to a Muslim family on the outskirts of the town. There are no reports of any injuries.

The disturbances began on Wednesday when an argument in a gold shop escalated quickly, with mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings alight, including some mosques.

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