YANGON // Hundreds of homes burned and gunfire rang out as sectarian violence flared for a fifth day between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in western Myanmar yesterday.
Betwen 12 and 50 people have been killed in the fresh wave of fighting, which started on Sunday.
Security forces are struggling to stem Myanmar's worst communal unrest since clashes in June killed more than 80 people and displaced at least 75,000 in Rakhine state.
The latest violence in Rakhine has spread to several towns, including commercially important Kyaukpyu, where a multi-billion-dollar China-Myanmar pipeline starts.
The violence is one of the biggest tests yet of the reformist agenda of the government. A statement from the president's office spoke of only 12 dead and said 1,948 houses and eight religious buildings had been destroyed. A Rakhine state spokesman said as many as 50 had died.
The United Nations said it was "gravely concerned" at the violence and called for calm, saying large numbers of people were said to be seeking refuge in already overcrowded camps near the state capital Sittwe.
Rohingyas are officially stateless. Buddhist-majority Myanmar's government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.
* Reuters with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse