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Deadly Sectarian Clashes In Burma Coincide With Visit By Google's Schmidt

AFP, BBC, IRRAWADDY (Burma), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

MEIKTILA- Burmese sectarian violence has turned deadly, as angry mobs rioted in the streets and at least five people have been reported killed in the central city of Meiktila.

The BBC cites a death toll of 20 by Friday morning, though the Myanmar government has only confirmed five fatalities after an argument in a gold shop escalated into mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings on fire -- including mosques -- and rival communities fighting in the streets.

Meiktila is more than 500km north of the capital Yangon (Rangoon)

The state media reported that a Buddhist monk is among the dead, with dozens wounded. Anonymous state authorities have put the death toll at 10 or higher, says Reuters. Buildings were still burning Friday morning and Buddhist crowds roamed the otherwise empty streets of the city in one of Asia’s most ethnically diverse countries, which is known to many as Burma but officially recognized as Myanmar.

“Two mosques and an Islamic religious school nearby were destroyed. A Buddhist monk and another man succumbed to their injuries at the hospital around 11 pm yesterday,” said an officer from the police station in Meiktila to Burmese daily Irrawaddy, without explaining how the two had been injured.

Irrawaddy reports that Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition chief Aung San Suu Kyi urged the Police Chief to take action as soon as possible. “Don’t sit by and watch. Act in accordance with the law.”

Parts of Meiktila have been reduced to ashes in the most serious Buddhist-Muslim clashes since those last year in the northern Rakhine State riots that left more than 120,000 displaced. Most of the victims were the Rohingya Muslims who are not recognized as Burmese citizens.

The ethnic cleansing in Burma had been previously hushed up but since the current government took power in 2011, people have been using the Internet more and more to publicize what is going on.

Coincidentally, Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt arrived in Burma on Friday to promote the use of technology. The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon was live-tweeting his speech and visit.

LIVE! #Google"s Eric Schmidt in Rangoon: "Myanmar was a formerly inaccessible country, but the Internet will make it impossible to go back."

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

LIVE! #Google"s Eric Schmidt in Rangoon speech: "Rule #1 - Don't let the government control the Internet." Audience applauds

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

Schmidt: Techonology empowers individuals. One mobile phone in one village can record injustices.

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

#Google"s Eric Schmidt:Myanmar is right on the cusp and will be able to leapfrog many other developing countries. This is your big moment.

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

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👋 Konta!*

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[*Papiamento, Dutch Caribbean]

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