- POSTED: 01 Oct 2013 20:33
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Fresh communal violence erupted in western Myanmar with one woman killed on Tuesday and homes torched, ahead of President Thein Sein's rare visit to the troubled region, police said.
YANGON - Fresh communal violence erupted in western Myanmar on Tuesday, leaving one person dead and homes set ablaze as President Thein Sein made a rare visit to the troubled region.
Thein Sein, making his first trip to Rakhine state as president, was due to hold meetings with Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities during his two-day visit, according to a presidential office official.
"The main focus of the trip is the communal violence," said the official, who asked not to be named.
Security was being strengthened in the Thandwe area, which Thein Sein is due to visit on Wednesday, officials said.
The latest unrest follows an argument over a parking space near a home last week which triggered arson attacks against property owned by local Kaman Muslims, according to the authorities.
"An old woman was killed during the clashes and houses were burned," a police official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Around 250 people have been killed and more than 140,000 left homeless in several outbreaks of violence around the country since June 2012, mostly in Rakhine.
Thein Sein spent Tuesday visiting a different area of Rakhine populated mainly by stateless Rohingya Muslims.
Clashes in Rakhine state in June and October last year left about 200 people dead.
The violence has since spread to other parts of Myanmar.
In several eruptions of unrest in Myanmar, armed mobs have rampaged through villages torching homes.
And thousands of Rohingya boat people -- including women and children -- have fled the former junta-ruled country since last year, mostly heading for Malaysia on a perilous sea voyage.
The International Crisis Group think-tank warned Tuesday that unless there is an effective government response and change in societal attitudes, the violence jeopardise the country's transition.
"At a moment of historic reform and opening, Myanmar cannot afford to become hostage to intolerance and bigotry," said Jim Della-Giacoma, ICG's Asia programme director.
"Those who are spreading messages of intolerance and hatred must not go unchallenged. Otherwise, this issue could come to define the new Myanmar, tarnishing its international image and threatening the success of its transition away from decades of authoritarianism."