UN envoy tours riot-hit Burma city

The top UN envoy to Burma has toured a city that was destroyed in the country's worst explosion of Buddhist-Muslim violence this year.

Nearly 10,000 people were forced from their homes in Meikhtila after unrest left dozens of corpses in the streets.

The visit by Vijay Nambiar, the UN secretary-general's special adviser on Burma, came a day after the army took control of the city to enforce a tense calm after President Thein Sein ordered a state of emergency.

The bloodshed marked the first sectarian unrest to spread into the nation's heartland since two similar episodes rocked western Rakhine state last year.

It is the latest challenge to efforts to reform the South-east Asian country after the long-ruling military ceded power two years ago to a civilian government led by retired army officers.

There are concerns the violence could spread, and the bloodshed has raised questions about the government's failure to rein in anti-Muslim sentiment in a predominantly Buddhist country where even monks have armed themselves and taken advantage of new-found freedoms to stage anti-Muslim rallies.

As in Rakhine, minority Muslims again appear to have borne the brunt of the violence. At least five mosques were set ablaze in Meikhtila, the majority of homes and shops burned in the city belonged to Muslims, and most of the displaced were Muslim.

During his trip, Mr Nambiar visited some of the thousands of Muslim residents at a city stadium where they have huddled since fleeing their homes. He later met around 100 Buddhists at a local monastery who have also been displaced.

"The city is calm and some shops have reopened, but many still live in fear. Some still dare not return to their homes," said Win Htein, an opposition politician.

Late on Saturday, the government put the death toll at 32, according to state television, which reported that bodies had been found as authorities began cleaning up the area.