23 Mar 2013

State of emergency declared in Myanmar

8:41 am on 23 March 2013

Myanmar's government has declared a state of emergency in a central district following three days of violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

At least 20 people have been killed and hundreds of riot police have been seen evacuating people from their burning homes in the town of Meiktila.

The office of Myanmar's president Thein Sein says the state of emergency will allow the military to help restore order in the town near the major city of Mandalay.

Violence broke out after an argument between Buddhists and Muslims on Wednesday. Mosques, a school and homes have since been burnt, the ABC reports.

Local journalists have reported seeing charred bodies on the streets and a continuing high level of tension.

They also report being threatened and claim that Buddhist monks have been involved in the fighting.

Communal violence has displaced more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims in the west of the country since the middle of last year and there has been ongoing concern it would spread to the rest of south-east Asian country.