Three dead in new Myanmar clashes: govt officials

Fresh communal violence has left at least three people dead in western Myanmar, government officials said Wednesday, as the United States praised Naypyidaw's "constructive" response to the clashes.

Three Buddhists were killed on Tuesday in the village of Yathedaung, about 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, according to an official who did not want to be named.

"The death toll could be higher," the official told AFP from Sittwe, adding that monsoon rains had hampered transport and communication links to the area.

Despite the new outbreak of bloodshed, the official said the situation was "under control in most parts of Rakhine state", where emergency rule has been in place for more than a week.

The region has been rocked by rioting, arson and a cycle of revenge attacks involving Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya, prompting growing international concern.

The clashes have left more than 60 people dead, another official said, including 10 Muslims killed on June 3 by a Buddhist mob seeking revenge for the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman -- the apparent spark for the unrest.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has warned the violence could disrupt the nation's fragile democratic reforms as it emerges from decades of army rule.

His swift reaction to the unrest, including imposing the state of emergency, setting up relief camps for the displaced and allowing UN humanitarian support, on Wednesday earned the praise of the US embassy in Yangon.

"President Thein Sein responded in a timely and public manner," an embassy spokesman said in a statement, adding: "The government undertook other constructive steps to respond to the violence and assist victims."

The embassy also said the government's receptivity to outside help for displaced people was a "welcome difference" to its rejection of aid after cyclone Nargis, a 2008 storm which left an estimated 138,000 people dead or missing in the then army-ruled country.

The wave of violence between Rakhine and Rohingya has forced tens of thousands of people from both sides to flee their homes and seek shelter in relief camps.

The World Food Programme said Tuesday it had provided food to more than 65,000 people, estimating a further 25,000 were in need of help.

About 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which describes them as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

Neighbouring Bangladesh, where an estimated 300,000 Rohingya live, has been turning back Rohingya boats arriving on its shores since the outbreak of the unrest.

Rohingya leaders say the real number of dead in remote villages could be much higher than the figures given by authorities.

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