An argument between a Muslim shopkeeper and his Buddhist customers in the Burmese city of Meikhtila triggered several days of riots late last month. By the end of it about 40 people were killed and thousands displaced, with 828 buildings, mostly residential, being destroyed. Human Rights Watch has provided before-and-after satellite imagery to illustrate the damage (seen right).
Barack Obama became the first president to visit Burma, shortly after his re-election last year, and the administration hoped the continuation of a Bush-era policy of engagement might incentivize the regime to dial back its own human rights violations. In this latest round of sectarian violence, the Burmese president declared a state of emergency and condemned extremism, even saying he doesn't "endorse the use of force to solve problems" (presumably except when his government does it, brutally).