Myanmar extends state of emergency

May 21, 2013 at 11:53 AM

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, May 21 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in Myanmar voted Tuesday to extend a state of emergency over parts of the country gripped by fighting between Muslims and Buddhists.

Lawmakers had a special session Tuesday to discuss anti-Muslim violence in Meiktila. A state of emergency was declared there in March after about 20 people were killed during the fighting.

Myanmar authorities voted Tuesday to extend the state of emergency for another 60 days.

"We welcome the extension of the state of emergency because we are afraid the conflict could spark again as we resettle the displaced people," a Meiktila district officer told Thai newspaper The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity after the vote.

Myanmar President Thein Sein met with U.S. President Barack Obama this week in Washington. Obama said he's seen significant progress in terms of political and economic reform but added he had concerns about the security situation in Myanmar.

Washington imposed sanctions against Myanmar's former military junta for its poor human rights record.

The Thai newspaper reports that seven Muslims were given sentences ranging from two years in prison to the death penalty for their role in the violence targeting the Buddhist community in Meiktila.

District officials said more than 70 suspects were in custody on charges of murder and the destruction of property during the March skirmishes. Muslims are the minority in Myanmar.

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