Myanmar jails trio for 14 years over unrest

Three people including a gold shop owner have been jailed for 14 years in connection with religious riots in Myanmar last month, state media and police said Friday.

The three Muslims -- who also include the owner's wife and an employee -- were accused of beating a Buddhist customer in an argument over a gold hairpin in the town of Meiktila in central Myanmar on March 20.

They were convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and theft with intent to cause death or injury, according to the state-run Mirror newspaper.

The tough sentences are believed to be the first handed down in relation to last month's unrest.

The gold shop row later escalated into several days of Buddhist-Muslim clashes that left 43 people dead and mosques and Muslim homes burned down.

Radical monks -- once at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement and viewed with reverence in the Buddhist-majority nation -- have been linked to the subsequent unrest, which observers said appeared to be well organised.

The situation has calmed since President Thein Sein on March 28 vowed a tough response against those behind the violence, which he attributed to "political opportunists and religious extremists".

It follows Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the western state of Rakhine last year that left at least 180 people dead, mostly minority Muslim Rohingya who are viewed by many Burmese as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.