Even though Thandwe was on lockdown, a presidential spokesman Wednesday said Thein Sein would keep the rest of his three-day visit to towns and camps in Rakhine in his first visit to the region since violence erupted last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Thein Sein is trying to calm tensions between majority Buddhists and Muslims that resulted in more than 150 deaths and the displacement of about 150,000 people during the past year. The majority of the victims were Rohingya Muslims.
Violence broke out during the weekend in Thandwe, a coastal city near the beach resort of Ngapali, beginning Saturday when a Buddhist taxi driver told police he was verbally attacked by a Muslim business owner while trying to park his taxi in front of the businessman's shop, the Journal said. After he was questioned and released by police, a mob attacked the businessman's home.
Several houses were destroyed Sunday and authorities imposed a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew.
Mobs carrying sticks and knives Tuesday began attacking villages around Thandwe, authorities said, killing at least five Muslims.
"More than 1,000 residents surrounded the Muslim homes and destroyed them," Win Myaing, a government spokesman for Rakhine state, told the Journal, estimating that at least 50 homes and a mosque were burned.
Thein Sein arrived Tuesday in Sittwe, Rakhine's capital. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said Thein Sein spoke to residents about the "need to accept the diversity in the state and understand that cooperation between the two communities is needed."