11 Jun 2012

Emergency rule declared in western Myanmar

8:56 pm on 11 June 2012

Martial law has been declared in western Myanmar following sectarian violence between Muslims and Bhuddists.

The United Nations says it has started evacuating staff from its base.

Emergency rule has been declared by President Thein Sein in Rakhine state, where at least seven people were killed on the weekend and hundreds of Buddhists' homes were torched, the ABC reports.

The president has warned that violence and hatred based on religion and nationality could spread to other parts of the country, which is part-way through a fragile political reform process.

Rakhine state is populated mostly by Buddhists, but also home to many stateless Muslim Rohingya who are considered foreigners by the country's government.

A cycle of tit-for-tat attacks seemingly began with the murder and rape of a Rakhine woman, which was followed by what appeared to be a revenge attack in which 10 Muslims were killed.

Police and military units have been deployed and curfews are in place.