Thursday, February 22, 2018

UN's Myanmar envoy visits city wracked by violence

MEIKHTILA, Myanmar — The top U.N. envoy to Myanmar on Sunday toured a central city wracked by the country's worst Buddhist-Muslim violence this year, calling on the government to punish those responsible for a tragedy that left dozens of corpses piled in the streets, some of them charred beyond recognition.

Vijay Nambiar, the U.N. secretary-general's special adviser on Myanmar, also visited some of the nearly 10,000 people driven from their homes after sectarian unrest shook the city of Meikhtila for several days this week. Most of the displaced are minority Muslims, who appeared to have suffered the brunt of the violence as armed Buddhist mobs roamed city.

Nambiar said he was encouraged to learn that some individuals in both communities had bravely helped each other and that religious leaders were now advocating peace. He said the people he spoke to believe the violence "was the work of outsiders," but he gave no details.

Nambiar's visit came one day after the army took control of the city to enforce a tense calm after President Thein Sein ordered a state of emergency here.

The government has put the official death toll at 32, and late Sunday state television reported that authorities had detained 35 people allegedly involved in arson and violence in Meikhtila and the townships of Yamethin and Lewei.

There are concerns the violence could spread, and the bloodshed has raised questions about the government's failure to rein in anti-Muslim sentiment in a predominantly Buddhist country where even monks have armed themselves and taken advantage of newfound freedoms to stage anti-Muslim rallies.

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