07/08/2014, 00.00
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In Mandalay, 362 people arrested after sectarian violence but culprits still free

Hundreds of people are arrested for curfew violation. Sixteen are detained for gun possession without a licence. However, the people sought in two murders are still on the run. Myanmar president threatens media if the country's "stability" is undermined.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Myanmar authorities arrested at least 362 people following last week's violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city, which left two people dead, dozens injured and the imposition of the curfew.

Police sources report that most of the people arrested were taken into custody for violating the curfew that is still in place from dusk to dawn.

An additional 16 people were arrested for involvement in various capacities in the riots that broke out in earlier this month, as well as for illegal possession of weapons, including sticks and swords.

Law enforcement launched an investigation to find the causes of the killings, but "the main suspects [. . .] do not appear among the people arrested so far" and remain on the loose.

Police and local authorities also thanked those "without distinction of race or religion" who provided assistance in a "delicate" and tense situation.

However, some doubts and questions remain about the role played by local government officials, police and Buddhist monks in recent violence.

Local sources note in fact that rioters "well organised" and "from out of town."

President Thein Sein spoke out again on the issue of violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

He warned the media that recent concessions to TV and newspapers in matters of press freedom could be rolled back if the country's stability was threatened.

The president, who has been criticised for failing to stem sectarian tensions, promised "zero tolerance" against riots.

At the same time, he slammed media and Internet sites for disseminating material capable of fomenting violence and unrest.

"If media freedom threatens national security instead of helping the nation, we warn that we will take action under existing laws," he said.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation, has seen a rise in sectarian violence since 2012.

Over the past two years, more than 280 people have died and at least 140,000 have been displaced.

Most of the victims are Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine, targeted by Buddhist extremists.

In 2011, the former Burma ended decades of military dictatorship with the creation of a quasi-civilian government, supported however by the military leadership.

In addition, the process of transition to greater democracy has been undermined by sectarian violence.

Muslims are 4 per cent in a population of 60 million people.

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