Soldiers and police patrolled streets in western Myanmar yesterday after Buddhist mobs attacked offices and residences of international aid workers this week, prompting the evacuation of almost all non-essential staff, residents and an official said.
The mob action resulted in the death of a 13-year-old girl, who was killed when police fired into the air to disperse the crowds.
The government said it would investigate the violence, which occurred on Wednesday and Thursday in Rakhine State capital, Sittwe.
It is a basic international principle that humanitarian aid workers be allowed to operate safely and without hindrance, and the US, Britain and the UN expressed deep concern over the developments.
Police escorted aid workers from their homes for safety reasons, placing dozens under protection, Sittwe resident Aung Than said by phone. Other aid groups said they were evacuating all local and foreign non-essential staff, some on regularly scheduled flights, others on charters.
Tun Tha, another resident contacted by phone, said the situation was calm yesterday, thanks in part to a 6pm to 6am curfew.
State spokesman Win Myaing said several people were being questioned in connection with the rioting.
Local Rakhine residents have been angry with international non-governmental groups for their relief efforts, accusing them of showing favoritism to tens of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist country, in camps for the displaced. There have been several tense protests in the past, and many Western aid workers started leaving days ago for security reasons.
As part of the anti-Rohingya campaign, Buddhist flags have been place in front of almost every house and office in Sittwe in recent days.
On Wednesday the tensions exploded, sparked by reports that an American woman had removed one of those flags from in front of the Malteser International office and then held it near her hip as she carried it away, an act that was interpreted as a deep insult.
The 300 people who surrounded the building dispersed only after police fired dozens of rounds of warning shots into the air, Win Myaing said.
A 13-year-old Rakhine girl was killed by one of the bullets, according to residents and a witness at the funeral home.