State of emergency declared in Myanmar amid violence

Myanmar's President has declared a state of emergency in a central town where at least 20 people have been killed in violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

The president made the announcement in a statement broadcast on state television today.

A man stands in front of a burnt-out mosque in Meikhtila, central Myanmar Credit: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

The trouble started on Wednesday after an argument broke out between a Muslim gold shop owner and his Buddhist customers.

A Buddhist monk was among the first killed, inflaming tensions that led a Buddhist mob to rampage through a Muslim neighbourhood in the central district of Meikhtila.

Firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire during riots in Meikhtila Credit: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Mosques have been burned and houses of Muslim residents destroyed. Angry Buddhist residents and monks prevented authorities from putting out the blazes.

Police have been seizing knives, swords, hammers and sticks from young men in the streets and detained scores of looters in an attempt to clamp down on the violence.

Muslims rest as they take refuge at a stadium amid riots Credit: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun