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Myanmar: State of emergency declared in western province

Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the western province of Rakhine after riots claimed the lives of 7 people.

Myanmar state of emergency rakhine sectarian violence june 10 2012Enlarge
Rakhine Buddhist monks pray as hundreds of demonstrators gather at the Shwedagon pagoda after unrest flared in the western Myanmar state and at least seven people were killed, in Yangon on June 10, 2012. Myanmar on June 10 imposed a curfew in the Rakhine state capital Sittwe, state media reported, amid fears of further unrest following deadly sectarian rioting between Buddhists and Muslims. (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the western province of Rakhine on Sunday after riots and sectarian clashes left at least seven dead, according to the Associated Press.

Thein Sein said the recent deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims could jeopardize the democratic reforms he has been implementing since last year.

The New York Times and the BBC put the number of dead at 17 and said hundreds of properties were also damaged.

Soldiers and police officers were attempting to restore order after a curfew was implemented in four towns of the state earlier.

Thein Sein said, "If we put racial and religious issues at the forefront, if we put the never-ending hatred, desire for revenge and anarchic actions at the forefront, and if we continue to retaliate and terrorize and kill each other, there's a danger that (the troubles) could multiply and move beyond Rakhine," according to the BBC.

"If that happens, it can severely affect peace and tranquility and our nascent democratic reforms and the development of the country," he added, according to the AP.

More on GlobalPost: Myanmar tries to restore calm after ethnic violence kills 7

According to the AP, the riots spiraled from when a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered, allegedly by three Muslim men. On June 3, around 300 Buddhists lynched 10 Muslims, provoked by rumors of the earlier incident. The rioting of the last few days was thought to be Muslims retaliating against the lynching.

This is the first time Thein Sein has imposed a state of emergency in Myanmar, also known as Burma, since taking office last year, and he said the order will "remain until further notice," according to the Guardian.

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Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is due to visit the UK later in the month, appealed for calm. The Guardian noted that it wasn't clear whether the rioting would impact Suu Kyi's decision to travel.

According to the BBC, Rakhine is named for the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist majority, but it also has a sizeable Muslim population. The Muslim ethnic Rohingya are not recognized by the Burmese government as citizens because it views them as citizens of neighboring Bangladesh, reported the Times. Nearly 800,000 Rohingya live in conditions that resemble a refugee camp, essentially stateless.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120610/myanmar-state-emergency-declared-western-province