BANGKOK - High rates of poverty among Myanmar’s ethnic groups could foment unrest and undercut the reform process in the formerly army-ruled nation, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Sunday.

Unemployment and low agricultural productivity have left much of the country in penury with the ADB classing nearly three-quarters of people in Chin, roughly half in Rakhine, both states in the west of the country, and a third in eastern Shan state as poor. Rakhine was this month rocked by deadly communal clashes between local ethnic minority Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, while a fragile ceasefire is holding in Shan state after years of war between rebels and Myanmar’s army. “You have to address the regional differences in poverty and economic growth,” Stephen Groff, vice-president of the poverty alleviation bank told AFP in Bangkok after a visit to Myanmar.

“These disparities within Myanmar, as in other countries, can lead to ethnic and social unrest that undercuts the country’s potential.” The Rakhine violence, which saw dozens on both sides killed, prompted reform minded President Thein Sein to warn unrest could derail hard won democratic progress.