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    Burma’s President Thein Sein warns ‘extremists’

    Mosques and houses
    belonging to Muslims have been destroyed in the violence
    BBC News:
    28 March 2013
    The Burmese
    government will use force if necessary to stop “political opportunists and
    religious extremists” from fomenting hatred between faiths, President
    Thein Sein has warned.
    It was his first
    public comment on the violence, which began last week.
    At least 40 people
    have been killed as a result of discord between Buddhists and Muslims since 20
    Curfews have been
    imposed in a number of areas, as crowds of Buddhists attacked Muslim buildings.
    The police were
    reported on Wednesday to have opened fire in one town on a crowd of about 500
    Last Friday a state
    of emergency was enforced in the central town of Meiktila in Mandalay region –
    where the communal violence began after a reported argument at a gold shop.
    ‘Last resort’
    “I would like to
    warn all political opportunists and religious extremists who try to exploit the
    noble teachings of these religions and have tried to plant hatred among people
    of different faiths for their own self-interest. Their efforts will not be
    tolerated,” the president said in a national televised address.
    “In general, I
    do not endorse the use of force to solve problems. However, I will not hesitate
    to use force as a last resort to protect the lives and safeguard the property
    of the general public,” he said.
    perpetrators of violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the
    The president said
    that “conflicts and difficulties” would inevitably arise during
    Burma’s transition to a democracy.
    He called on police
    to “perform their duties decisively, bravely and within the constraints of
    the constitution and by-laws”.
    Correspondents say
    that police in Meiktila have been criticised for failing to act quickly enough
    to stop the rioting, in which houses, shops and mosques were burned down.
    At least 12,000
    Muslims are thought to have fled their homes because of the unrest.
    In similar violence
    in Rakhine state last year, nearly 200 people were killed and tens of thousands
    forced from their homes.
    The conflict that
    erupted in Rakhine involved Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, who are not
    recognised as Burmese citizens and have complained of frequent persecution.
    Those affected by the
    latest violence insist that in contrast to the allegations made against the
    Rohingyas they are legitimate Burmese citizens.
    Correspondents say
    that isolated violence involving Burma’s majority Buddhist population and its
    minority Muslim community has occurred for decades, even under military
    governments that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.