[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific

Myanmar unrest 'harms country's image'

President Thein Sein's comments come in the wake of deadly sectarian violence targeting Muslims in towns in Meiktila.

Last Modified: 01 Apr 2013 06:53
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Satellite images analysed by Human Rights Watch show the scale of the destruction in Meiktila [Al Jazeera]

Communal conflict in Myanmar has "tarnished" the country's world image, President Thein Sein said, in the wake of violence targeting Muslims that saw dozens killed and sparked international concern.

A wave of violence that began on March 20 saw mosques and homes burned in several towns in Meiktila, central Myanmar, leaving at least 43 dead and prompting the government to impose emergency rule and curfews in some areas.

Satellite images analysed by Human Rights Watch show the scale of the destruction in Meiktila.

"Areas with near total destruction were concentrated within three locations in Meiktila measuring more than 24 hectares in total area west and northeast of the city’s main market," Human Rights Watch said on their website on Monday.

Thein Sein said in a radio address on Sunday: "Some members of the public have killed and committed arson in the spirit of anger rather than be governed by the law and their actions have tarnished the country's image on the world stage".

The former general added that such incidents would "badly harm the country's dignity" with the international community and warned that Myanmar's fledgling democratic transition could be destabilised by the communal fighting.

Sectarian strife

The United States and United Nations are among those that have voiced alarm about the clashes, which were the worst sectarian strife since violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead.

Thein Sein vowed a tough response to the fighting in a speech on Thursday, his first public address over the violence, which he attributed to "political opportunists and religious extremists".

The situation has since appeared to have been calm although thousands remain homeless.

Rioting was apparently triggered by an argument in a gold shop that turned into a mass brawl, but witnesses say the wave of violence in other central Myanmar towns since then appears to have been organised.

The conflict poses a major challenge to Thein Sein, who has won international praise for his reform efforts since taking office in 2011 following the end of decades of outright military rule.

Myanmar's Muslims - largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent - account for an estimated four percent of the population of roughly 60 million.

Myanmar on Friday strongly rejected suggestions of state links to the unrest from the UN's human rights envoy to the country, Tomas Ojea Quintana, who cited the reluctance of security forces to crack down on rioters.

The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation said on Saturday that member states will meet on April 14 in Saudi Arabia to discuss violence against Muslims in Myanmar.

457

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.