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Religious violence grips central Myanmar

March 21, 2013 at 11:21 AM

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, March 21 (UPI) -- Myanmar police officers have responded to violence pitting Muslims against Buddhists in the central part of the country, an official said.

Ye Htut, a spokesman for the Myanmar government, told The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar newspaper published in Thailand, the situation improved after a curfew was imposed.

"The situation is still tense there and we've deployed between 600 and 700 police officers," he said.

Htut said at least five people died as a result of the fighting in Meiktila and another 39 people were injured. The district's police office told the newspaper that at least 14 bodies were discovered on the streets Thursday.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on local authorities to take "serious action" to control the violence but also act according to the rule of law.

Suu Kyi secured a seat in Parliament after being released from house arrest in 2010. General elections that year put Myanmar on the path of democratic reform, though internal conflicts and human rights concerns have clouded progress.

Conflicts between Muslim and Buddhist communities last year in northern Myanmar left thousands of people, mostly ethnic Rohingyas, displaced.

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