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    UN envoy visits riot-hit Myanmar town

    Vijay Nambiar, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on Myanmar, looks at debris of the buildings destroyed during the ethnic unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Meikhtila, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) north of Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, March 24, 2013. The top UN envoy to Myanmar toured a central city Sunday destroyed in the country’s worst explosion of 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.(AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)


     March 24, 2013

    The United
    Nations envoy to Myanmar has spent Sunday visiting the central town of Meiktila
    destroyed by deadly communal riots.

    The United
    Nations envoy to Myanmar has spent Sunday visiting the central town of Meiktila
    destroyed by deadly communal riots.

    Nambiar, the UN special adviser on Myanmar, met some of the estimated 9,000
    people who have been displaced by the clashes.

    violence in Meiktila has killed at least 32 people since Wednesday, prompting
    an army-enforced state of emergency.

    Mr Nambiar
    visited two makeshift camps for displaced Muslims and a monastery housing
    Buddhists who also fled the violence.

    visiting the camps, Mr Nambiar said he noticed there was “very little
    hatred” and that residents wanted to rebuild their lives.

    “We are
    prepared to help as much as we can in terms of humanitarian assistance,”
    he added.

    Buddhist and
    Muslim leaders have spoken publicly for the first time since the violence
    began, urging respect for the law and the maintenance of “community

    Interfaith Friendship Organisation has called on the government to protect both
    communities in Meiktila, 130 kilometres north of the capital Naypyidaw.

    An uneasy
    peace prevailed over the town on Sunday, with shops reopening and police and
    army patrols keeping order after three days of rioting which saw armed mobs –
    including monks – take control of the streets.


    It was the
    most serious religious conflict since Buddhists and Muslims clashed in the
    western state of Rakhine last year, leaving at least 180 people dead and more
    than 110,000 displaced.

    The state of
    emergency, signed by President Thein Sein, is designed to enable the army to
    help restore order.

    The UN, US,
    Britain and rights groups have called for calm and dialogue between communities
    amid fears the violence could spread.

    Muslims – largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent – account for an
    estimated four per cent of the population of roughly 60 million, although the
    country has not conducted a census in three decades.

    violence has occasionally broken out in the past in some areas across the
    country, with Rakhine state a flashpoint for the tensions.

    violence erupted there last year, thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled the
    conflict in rickety boats, many heading for Malaysia.