YANGON - Agence France-Presse
An ethnic Rakhine demonstrator holds a sign as hundreds gather at the Shwedagon pagoda after unrest flared in the western Myanmar state and at least seven people were killed, in Yangon on June 10, 2012. AFP photo
A state of emergency was declared Sunday in Myanmar's western Rakhine state, official media said, amid fears of further unrest following an eruption of deadly sectarian violence.
State television said an order had been signed into effect by President Thein Sein in response to clashes that saw hundreds of Buddhist villagers' homes set ablaze and left seven dead in rioting on Friday and Saturday.
The order was effective "until (a) further order", according to the report, which said it was "intended to restore security and stability to the people immediately".
"The unrest and terrorist acts have been increasing," it said.
The conflict threatens to undermine the reforms of Myanmar's new government, which took power last year following decades of outright military rule.
Rakhine state is named for its dominant, mostly Buddhist ethnic group but is also home to a large Muslim population including the Rohingya, a stateless people described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya foreigners and not one of the nation's ethnic groups, while many citizens see them as them illegal immigrants and view them with hostility.