AFP- Myanmar state media warned on Sunday of "anarchy" and a spiral of retaliation after a spate of deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims that threatens to overshadow reforms in the nation.
The New Light of Myanmar urged people to exercise "tolerance" in the wake of rioting on Friday and Saturday that saw hundreds of Buddhist villagers' homes set ablaze and left seven dead in Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh.
"Hatred, misunderstanding or any other kind of conflict among the rural people or urbanites serve no one's interest, but invites retaliation, anarchy, stagnation and lawlessness creating an environment where peace is totally absent and where democracy cannot flourish at all," said an editorial.
Police and military units were deployed to bring an end to the unrest, in which 17 people were also wounded and nearly 500 houses destroyed, according to the official media.
A cycle of apparent revenge attacks began with rumours about the recent rape and murder of a Rakhine woman.
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.
Last Sunday, an angry Buddhist mob mistakenly believing the perpetrators of the rape were on board a bus, beat 10 Muslim passengers to death.
The rioting flared on Friday when at least four Buddhists were killed in the area.
A second wave of violence swept through remote villages early Saturday, as more ethnic Rakhine homes were torched forcing villagers to flee to temporary shelters in Maungdaw town, according to government officials.
The New Light warned that "deep mistrust" could serve to turn the region into a "cauldron" of misleading information.
"In this situation rumours float well spreading to all corners like the evil knocking every one's door as a messenger of death and destruction pushing people nowhere but into a circle of retaliations," the newspaper continued.
A group of ethnic Rakhine were expected to gather at a monastery in downtown Yangon on Sunday to hold a ceremony for those killed in the clashes.
The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya as foreigners and not one of the nation's ethnic groups, while many citizens view them with hostility and suspicion, believing they do not belong in the country.
But according to the UN Myanmar has an estimated 750,000 Rohingya, living mainly in Rakhine. Another one million or more are thought to live in other countries.
Activists say forced labour is common and Rohingyas face discriminatory practices including travel restrictions, limits on family size, and a refusal to issue them passports.
Human Rights Watch on Saturday expressed "profound concern" following the riots and said discriminatory government policy had helped stoke tensions between the Rakhines and Rohingyas.
The unrest in Rakhine comes in the wake of a series of tentative ceasefires Myanmar authorities inked with ethnic minority rebels around the country as part of wide-ranging reforms since the end of outright military rule last year.
While battles continue to rage in northern Myanmar, the truces are seen as an effort to draw a line under decades of unrest.