A central Burmese town declared a curfew for a second night yesterday after violent clashes killed at least 10 people, including a Buddhist monk, and injured at least 20, authorities said.
Riots erupted in Meikhtila, 540km north of Yangon, on Wednesday after an argument between a Buddhist couple and the Muslim owners of a gold shop escalated into a riot.
Win Htein, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy Party, said he had seen bodies at Meiktila yesterday.
“More than 10 people were killed,” he told reporters by telephone from the town, which is his constituency seat.
A post on the Myanmar Police Force’s Facebook page said that about 200 people had clashed on the streets.
Police have so far confirmed that two people died — including a Buddhist monk — after sustaining severe burns in Wednesday’s fighting, while several mosques were also torched by angry mobs.
A local who asked not to be named said he had seen “many dead bodies.”
“The situation is getting worse. The police cannot control the people. There are groups of people on the streets with knives and sticks,” he told reporters.
The unrest comes amid heightened tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar, where communal conflict in Rakhine has left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced since June last year.
Win Htein said that there were about 30,000 Muslims in Meiktila out of a total population of about 80,000 and that no similar clashes had happened in his lifetime.
“I think it is a consequence of what happened in Rakhine State last year,” he added.
A local police officer confirmed that “some people were injured” in fresh fighting in the town, but did not give further details.
Myanmar’s Muslims — largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent — account for an estimated 4 percent of the roughly 60 million-strong population.
Muslims entered Myanmar en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, but have never been fully integrated into the country.