Gunshots rang out and residents fled burning homes on Tuesday as security forces in western Myanmar struggled to contain deadly ethnic and religious violence that has displaced thousands of people.

The conflict pitting ethnic Rakhine Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims has left at least a dozen civilians dead and hundreds of homes charred since it began in coastal Rakhine state on Friday.

President Thein Sein has declared a state of emergency and deployed Army troops to restore stability, warning that the unrest could threaten the fragile nation’s recent democratic reforms as it emerges from half a century of military rule.

On Tuesday in the regional capital, Sittwe, police fired live rounds into the air to disperse a group of Rohingyas, who could be seen burning homes in one neighbourhood. Much of the port city remained calm, however, including the main street. Schools, banks and most shops were closed, though some opened briefly to sell fish and vegetables early in the morning to residents who braved the tense streets.

“Tensions are still very high and it is very dangerous,” said Tha Zan Hla, an ethnic Rakhine.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged a halt to the violence and called on authorities to conduct a quick, transparent investigation.

The United Nations said it had temporarily relocated 44 of its 150 personnel in Rakhine state. Local state television said cargo and passenger boats to Sittwe were suspended.

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