Myanmar army keeps peace in eastern Shan state amid deadly religious violence

BANGKOK, Thailand — Myanmar security forces were out in force across Lashio in eastern Shan state on Thursday after a fresh outbreak of religious violence that left one dead.

The nation's latest eruption of sectarian clashes has seen whole Muslim neighborhoods evacuated and torched. The violence left properties in ruins and the reformist Myanmar government turning to the military to keep the peace.

Footage from the outlet Democratic Voice of Burma shows a mosque gutted by flames and its reporting team describes being beaten, stripped of memory cards and forced to evade gangs of men trolling the city with weapons. Agence France Presse reports a man hacked to death and another whose arm was severed off.

Some 1,200 Muslims sought refuge in the Buddhist Mansu Monastery in Lashio, about 430 miles from Myanmar's commercial capital of Yangon.

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The city appears to be simmering despite the arrival of troops and a nighttime curfew. "Security forces are being deployed on every corner," a local official told Reuters.

The latest in a series of clashes across Myanmar, the Lashio violence has cast doubt on whether reformist President Thein Sein can govern the nation as it emerges from half a century of military rule.

Muslims have been the main victims of the violence, which began in western Rakhine state last year. Communal unrest there left about 200 people dead and displaced up to 140,000 people, mainly Rohingya Muslims.

From each violence-wracked city, a narrative has emerged to explain how the trouble kicked off. In a town called Meikhtila in central Mandalay State, where 44 were killed in March, riots were reportedly sparked by an argument at a Muslim-owned gold shop; in a town called Okkan, carnage was kicked off when a Muslim woman bumped into a novice monk and sent his alms bowl crashing to the ground.

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In Lashio, according to Eleven Media, a Muslim man later found with meth in his pockets doused a Buddhist woman in gas and set her on fire.

Despite appeals for calm, Sein has proven incapable of stopping the steady creep of anti-Muslim sentiment and mob violence, which has nearly touched all corners of the country.

During his historic White House visit this month, Myanmar's leader was told by US President Barack Obama that "the displacement of people, the violence directed towards them, needs to stop." 

Patrick Winn contributed to this report from Bangkok.