THE death toll from recent communal violence in central Myanmar (Burma) has risen to 43 with more than 1300 homes and other buildings destroyed, state media has reported.

Sixty-eight people have been arrested in connection with the Buddhist-Muslim unrest, which has left 11,376 people homeless, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Saturday.

In total, 163 incidences of violence have been reported in 15 townships, it added.

Previously the official death toll stood at 40.

The situation appears to have calmed since President Thein Sein on Thursday vowed a tough response against those behind the violence, which he attributed to “political opportunists and religious extremists”.

Security forces fired warning shots on Wednesday to disperse rioters. But Muslim leaders have criticised the security forces for failing to stop the attacks.

The clashes were apparently triggered by an argument in a gold shop that turned into a riot, but witnesses say the wave of violence since then appears to have been well organised.

It is the worst sectarian strife since violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced.