THANDWE, Myanmar : Myanmar’s president on Thursday met communities in an area convulsed by deadly anti-Muslim violence, after mobs torched property and police fired warning shots to try to restore order.
Six people have been arrested after several days of tensions spilled into bloodshed on Tuesday in the western state of Rakhine, with the death toll now standing at six - all Muslims, police said.
Thein Sein met local residents and hoteliers in the flashpoint town of Thandwe but did not venture into outlying villages, before returning to the capital Naypyidaw.
The Myanmar leader was on his first visit to Rakhine since a wave of religious violence erupted there last year, leaving dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.
Unrest flared again on Wednesday evening despite the nearby presence of the president, a Rakhine police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The police opened fire to control the situation,” the official said, adding that two houses on the outskirts of Thandwe owned by a local Muslim were torched but no one was injured.
The man was allegedly involved in a verbal argument with a Buddhist tuk tuk driver that sparked the initial unrest at the weekend. His house in Thandwe was burned by a mob and he has since been arrested by local police on unknown charges.
Muslim families fled into forests in terror after Tuesday’s violence, which saw a mob of some 800 Buddhist thugs set alight dozens of homes in their village on the outskirts of Thandwe.
A 94-year-old woman was knifed to death in the rioting, which happened near the popular tourist destination of Ngapali Beach.
Rights groups have previously accused Myanmar’s authorities of complicity with rioters in the Buddhist-majority nation — a claim the government denies.
The international community has expressed growing disquiet at the fresh unrest in strife-racked Rakhine.
Both the US and UN expressed serious concern over the latest incidents and urged swift action to quell conflict and bring perpetrators to justice.
What began last year as communal fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Rohingya Muslims has since spread, with other minority Muslim groups increasingly targeted.
Around 250 people have been killed and more than 140,000 left homeless in several outbreaks of Buddhist-Muslim violence around the country since June 2012, mostly in Rakhine.