The United States is closely monitoring how Myanmar leaders quell a wave of sectarian violence, urging them to respect human rights in ending the bloodshed, an official said Wednesday.
Deadly Buddhist-Muslim violence has left 40 people dead in the past week, presenting the Southeast Asian nation with one of its most serious challenges since the ruling junta ceded power to a reformist government two years ago.
President Thein Sein, a former general, has declared a state of emergency and sent out troops to restore order. There was also a show of military force at an annual military parade Wednesday, joined for the first time by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"We do remain deeply concerned about the communal unrest in central Burma," State Department acting deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters, using the country's former name.
"We are urging Burmese authorities... to restore order and maintain peace in a manner that respects human rights and due processes of law... So that's really the appropriate role for the military."
He acknowledged though that the transition to full civilian rule was a "work in progress," and refused to be drawn on Suu Kyi's presence at the parade in the capital Naypyidaw.
The United States has moved to lift virtually all sanctions imposed on Myanmar during military rule, and pledged aid and assistance to the government as it transitions to full democracy.
But rights groups have argued that nations have moved too fast in rewarding the reforms in Myanmar, saying many issues remain unresolved.
"We're watching how they're implementing the rule of law, how they're responding to this outbreak of ethnic violence," a State Department official said, asking not to be named.
"Are they going to do it in a way that's not sort of a crackdown? Are they going to do it in a way that brings calm and safety and in a professional way?" he asked.
But asked about whether there was concern about the military parade, the official replied: "It's one event and we don't want to make a broader determination about what it might mean for civilian-military relations."