Sectarian violence spread to a new region of Myanmar, with a mob burning down a mosque, a Muslim orphanage and shops in a northeastern town after rumors spread that a Muslim man had set fire to a Buddhist woman, authorities said Wednesday.
There were no reported fatalities, according to a police officer and a Buddhist monk in Lashio, the remote northern town near China's border where the violence erupted Tuesday night. The full extent of the unrest was still unclear, with no immediate reports of how many people may have been injured.
Deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims has occurred since last year in other parts of the country, first in a western region and then in central towns. The new flare-up will reinforce doubts that President Thein Sein's government can or will act to contain the violence.
The government quickly condemned the violence in a statement Wednesday that urged the public to stay calm.
"Damaging religious buildings and creating religious riots is inappropriate for the democratic society we are trying to create," presidential spokesman Ye Htut said on his Facebook page. The message cautiously noted that "two religious buildings and some shops" In Lashio were burned, without specifying if they were Muslim or Buddhist.
"Any criminal act will be dealt with according to the law," the statement said.
A Lashio police officer and a Buddhist monk contacted Wednesday morning by telephone said the town's largest mosque and a Muslim orphanage were among the buildings set afire after an irate mob of about 150 people rampaged through the town. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety.
The town was calm Wednesday morning after authorities imposed a security measure than bans gatherings of more than five people, the police officer said.