YANGON, Myanmar – A curfew was imposed Friday in areas of western Myanmar where sectarian tensions between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in fresh violence.
State television said a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew was set in Maungdaw township in Rakhine state after Muslims attacked villages and burned down houses. There was no official announcement of casualties, but a security official said at least four people were killed.
A military officer said the army has been deployed to help police keep order. The two officials insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to release information.
The area is remote and independent confirmation of activities there is difficult.
Communal tensions and sectarian violence in Rakhine state last Sunday left 10 dead and 12 wounded.
The violence represents a crisis for the government of President Thein Sein, who began liberalizing reforms last year after Myanmar's five decades of repressive military rule.
While the government has calmed the country's pro-democracy movement with its measures, and concluded cease-fires with several ethnic guerrilla groups, it still face a bitter insurgency in the north by the Kachin ethnic minority.
Religious tension between the Buddhist majority and Muslims is a recurrent problem, particularly in Rakhine state along the border with Bangladesh.
The government announced Wednesday a committee would investigate last Sunday's violence and report its findings and suggestions to President Thein Sein.
The curfew was also applied to Buthidaung township north of Maungdaw. Both townships have heavy Muslim majorities, unlike the rest of the state.
The announcement also banned assembly of more than five people in public areas.
According to the state press, last Sunday's deaths involved the killings of 10 Muslims by an angry mob of about 300 people who attacked a bus carrying them from a religious gathering in Taunggup, 180 miles northwest of Yangon. Prior to the attack, some anti-Muslim pamphlets had been circulated in Taunggup relating to the rape and murder of a young Buddhist girl last month, allegedly by three Muslim youths.
Dozens of Muslims protested peacefully in front of a mosque in downtown Yangon on Tuesday calling for justice for the 10 dead and complaining about terminology used by state-run newspapers they said was derogatory.