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Violent religious clashes in Myanmar

Burnt vehicles on a road in Myanmar following clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.

Burnt vehicles on a road in Myanmar following clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.

YANGON — Buddhist mobs armed with sticks and machetes burned Muslim homes today for a second day in the northern Myanmar city of Lashio, contradicting claims in state media that soldiers and police had restored calm.

A Reuters reporter saw scores of young men and boys on motorbikes and on foot marauding through the city of 130,000 people in a mountainous region about 700 kilometres from the commercial capital Yangon.

One person was killed and four were wounded in fighting that began at about 2 p.m., Ye Htut, spokesman for President Thein Sein, said in a Facebook post. Police fired their guns to disperse the crowd, he said.

By early evening, Muslims shops and homes were still burning in one quarter, underlining the difficulty the president faces in containing mounting religious violence in an era of historic reforms since military rule ended in March 2011.

“I don’t know where the Muslims are. They all ran away,” said Kyaw Soe Win, a Buddhist resident of a mixed neighbourhood where motorbikes and household possessions lay burning in the streets. Nearby, a man with a sword and a stick combed through the remains of one burned-out shop.

State television said a mosque, a Muslim religious school and a number of shops were gutted by fires started on Tuesday by Buddhists who rampaged after hearing reports of a Muslim man setting a Buddhist woman on fire and badly wounding her. State media said calm had returned today.

Myanmar has struggled with religious unrest since June last year when fighting between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya erupted in western Rakhine State. (Reuters)

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