Myanmar President Thein Sein on Friday declared a state of emergency in Meikhtila and four other towns around it, where sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims over recent days has left as many as 20 dead and several dozen injured.
As torched buildings continued blazing in the central Myanmar town, international concern has poured in. Some observers feared the latest violence could be a sign of spreading religious tensions across the Buddhist-majority country that could threaten to unravel its dramatic reform process.
Ye Htut, a spokesperson for the president, said the state of emergency—which follows two nights of consecutive curfews in the town—was declared in part because forces there, comprising approximately a thousand police officers, "need more logistical support from the military." This, analysts say, could underscore the continued need for the army even in democratizing Myanmar. The military has taken a back seat in the political arena since Mr. Thein Sein's nominally civilian government took power.