A dispute last week between a Muslin store owner and a Buddhist couple trying to sell him a piece of gold sparked riots in the Myanmar town of Meiktila, Myanmar's Eleven News reports.
Witnesses say that the store owner beat up the couple, who then called for help and drew a crowd of onlookers that erupted into violence. As violence spread to the area around the town propaganda, fake photos of dead bodies and hate speech spread on the Internet, Reuters reports. As the violence continues, many fear that it will reach Yangon, the country's commercial capital.
In the past week, at least 40 people have died in the violence, CNN reports. Thousands have had to evacuate their homes as rioters set fire to houses, schools and mosques in Meiktila. Myanmar declared a state of emergency in the country Friday, giving the military permission to help reinstate order. Things had appeared to calm down until this weekend, when Buddhist groups carried out a series of arson attacks in towns across the region.
The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar has issued a warning to any Americans in the country to avoid the violent areas, but said no specific threats against Americans had been made.