World

US official warns Myanmar that religious intolerance exposes country to dangers

Myanmar Buddhist monks shout slogans as they march to protest against a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly calling on Myanmar to grant citizenship to Rohingya, Friday, Jan.16, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. The United Nations General Assembly’s human rights committee passed a resolution last year, urging Myanmar to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Myanmar Buddhist monks shout slogans as they march to protest against a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly calling on Myanmar to grant citizenship to Rohingya, Friday, Jan.16, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. The United Nations General Assembly’s human rights committee passed a resolution last year, urging Myanmar to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)  (The Associated Press)

The top U.S. human rights official has warned Myanmar that efforts to use religion to divide the population are like "playing with fire."

Tom Malinowski, wrapping up a six-day visit on Friday, says it is "exposing the country to dangers that it is not prepared to face."

Myanmar's former military rulers handed power to a quasi-civilian government three years ago. But the optimism that accompanied the transition — including the release of political prisoners and the freeing up of the media — has started to fade.

Rights activists say the biggest concern is rising Buddhist nationalism.

More than 140,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in camps since being chased from their homes by deadly violence three years ago.

The government is considering laws to curb interfaith marriage and limit religious conversion.