It was not immediately clear which side bore the brunt of the latest violence, but terrified Muslims, who make about 30 percent of Meikhtila’s 100,000 inhabitants, stayed off the streets Friday as their shops and homes continued to burn and angry Buddhist residents and monks prevented authorities from putting out the blazes.
Trucks of police stood guard outside the blackened, empty hulk of one aqua-colored mosque, one of at least five torched this week by Buddhist gangs.
Win Htein, a local lawmaker from the opposition National League for Democracy, said he had counted at least 20 bodies.
State radio on Friday night released the official totals for casualties and destruction, which normally lag behind the actual figures. It said there were 11 deaths and 39 injuries, and 152 houses, 13 religious buildings, a government office and five vehicles were damaged. No breakdown by religious group was given.
The announcement also called on the public to help find the riot’s instigators and inform the authorities.
Win Htein said 1,200 Muslim families — at least 6,000 people — have fled their homes and taken refuge at a stadium and a police station.
An unknown number of Buddhists, meanwhile, sought refuge inside the city’s shrines.
“The situation is unpredictable and dangerous,” said Sein Shwe, a shop owner. “We don’t feel safe and we have now moved inside a monastery.”