Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has blamed what she described as a "climate of fear" for exacerbating tensions between Muslims and Buddhists.
Asked about the fate of 140,000 Muslims who have been forced to leave their homes, she said that many Buddhists had also fled Burma, also known as Myanmar.
Ms Suu Kyi denied that Muslims had been subjected to ethnic cleansing.
She has been criticised for not defending Muslims since she emerged from house arrest two years ago.
Over the past two years, violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims has broken out in the state of Rakhine. There have also been clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in central Burma.
Muslims have borne the worst of the violence, with hundreds killed, often by mobs armed with knives and sticks.
"I think the problem is due to the fear felt by both sides," she told the BBC's Mishal Husain.
"Muslims have been targeted but Buddhists have also been subjected to violence.
"This fear is what is leading to all this trouble."
She said tensions had also been inflamed by a worldwide perception - also felt in Burma - that global Muslim power was "very great".
She said that it was down to the government to bring an end to the violence and the return of Buddhist refugees who had been forced to leave the country in recent years to escape political persecution.
"This is the result of our sufferings under a dictatorial regime. I think that if you live under a dictatorship for many years people do not like to trust one another - a dictatorship generates a climate of mistrust," she said.
Ms Suu Kyi said that the effective implementation of the rule of law was essential.
"Before people can sit down and sort out their differences they have to feel safe. If they feel that they are going to be killed in their beds they are not going to talk about harmony or learn to understand one another."
She said that Burma still had a long way to go before becoming fully democratic.
"People assume too readily that on a path to democracy - that we are democratising at a fast rate - but it is not happening like that at all."