Former US president Jimmy Carter warned Friday that deadly religious violence in Myanmar was undermining the country's hard-won democratic reforms.
At least 43 people were killed in Buddhist-Muslim unrest in central Myanmar last month, marring international optimism about the nation's emergence from decades of military rule.
"I'm deeply concerned about the recent religious violence," Carter, 88, said in a speech in the former capital Yangon during a visit for talks with the reformist regime and fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
"The recent violence risks damaging the reputation that you have gained in your country just as you're trying to rebuild it once again," he added.
"No people should ever be treated as inferior by the government or by other citizens," he said, voicing concern for the plight of tens of thousands of displaced people in western Rakhine state.
Violence last year between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine left scores dead and tens of thousands -- mainly Muslims -- forced to live in squalid temporary camps.
Carter also expressed concern about reports of "hate speech by some prominent people even religious leaders."
Some nationalist monks are among those accused of violence and spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric on the Internet.
Since taking power two years ago, President Thein Sein has freed hundreds of political prisoners, welcomed Suu Kyi's opposition party into mainstream politics and signed peace deals with several insurgent groups.
"I'm filled with admiration for your nation's political leaders," said Carter, who met Thein Sein and Suu Kyi in the week, praising the government's "far-reaching reform process".
"In order to ensure the continued success of the reform process, it is important for everyone to speak honestly and directly about the serious challenges that still exist," Carter added.
Since leaving the White House in 1981, Carter has maintained a rigorous schedule of supporting peace efforts and anti-poverty programmes around the world. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.