07/04/2014, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Sectarian violence: Burmese authorities impose curfew in Mandalay

The provisional toll is two dead and over 14 injured. Fears of an escalation of violence between Buddhists and Muslims. Activists and NLD members accuse police and security forces of being unable to control clashes. Aung San Suu Kyi calls for the respect of the law, and warns against posting material on line that "foments instability."

Mandalay (AsiaNews) - The Burmese authorities have imposed a curfew in Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar, after recent violence between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority left at least two dead and 14 wounded.

The fear of further sectarian violence remains high in a country that in the last two years has experienced tension and deep divisions between members of the two religions, particularly in the western state of Rakhine.

A Muslim man, was killed at dawn while he was heading to the mosque. A group of people attacked him and left him on the ground in agony. The second victim instead was a Buddhist, but there has been no official confirmation 24 hours into a police inquiry to clarify the victims identity and dynamics.

In an effort to stem the cycle of violence, the Burmese authorities have imposed a curfew from 9 pm to 5 am; state TV and radio broadcast news of the measure several times last night. Members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other human rights activists point the finger at the police and security chiefs, unable to manage the tensions and those behind this recent spate of clashes.

The chief minister of the region of Mandalay, Ye Myint has reported that four people have been arrested; he would not clarify the religious affiliation of persons detained for fear of further clashes. He also announced further action against those who caused the riots and violence.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stressed that violence in Mandalay could worsen if the authorities do not take urgent action: "unless the authorities seriously maintain the rule of law, violence will grow". She also adds some posts on the net and social media has only served to foment instability.

Myanmar, a large majority Buddhist nation, since 2012 is bleak in a long series of sectarian violence that has so far caused over 280 deaths and at least 140 thousand displaced persons; Most of the victims are Muslim Rohingyas, in the western state of Rakhine, the epicenter of the clash between the two religions, targeted by Buddhist extremists.

In 2011, the former Burma ended decades of military dictatorship with the birth of a semi-civilian government, however, still supported by the military leadership.  But the process of transition to a more democratic model is being undermined by sectarian violence. Muslims are 4% of a total of 60 million inhabitants

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