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1 dead, 4 hurt in anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar

By Todd Pitman

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 29 2013 10:22 a.m. MDT

Myanmar's sectarian violence first flared in western Rakhine state last year, when hundreds of people died in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims that drove about 140,000 others, mostly Muslims, from their homes. Most are still living in refugee camps.

This month, authorities in two areas of Rakhine announced a regulation limiting Rohingya families to two children. The policy drew sharp criticism from Muslim leaders, rights groups and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell on Tuesday said the U.S. opposes coercive birth limitation policies, and called on Myanmar "to eliminate all such policies without delay."

The clashes had seemed confined to the Rakhine region, but in late March, similar Buddhist-led violence swept the town of Meikthila in central Myanmar, killing at least 43 people. Earlier this month, a court sentenced seven Muslims from Meikthila to prison terms for their role in the violence.

Several other towns in central Myanmar experienced less deadly violence, mostly involving the torching of Muslim businesses and mosques.

Muslims account for about 4 percent of Myanmar's roughly 60 million people. Anti-Muslim sentiment is closely tied to nationalism and the dominant Buddhist religion, so leaders have been reluctant to speak up for the unpopular minority.

Thein Sein's administration, which came to power in 2011 after half a century of military rule, has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to protect Muslims. He vowed last week during a trip to the U.S. that all perpetrators of the sectarian violence would be brought to justice.

Associated Press writers Aye Aye Win in Yangon and Jocelyn Gecker and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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