Na­tion­al­ists or­gan­ise protests across Rakhine

Bud­dhists gath­ered yes­ter­day to reg­is­ter their ob­jec­tion to a gov­ern­ment edict to re­place the terms “Ro­hingya” and “Ben­gali” with “Mus­lims in Rakhine State”.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

RAKHINE State saw mass protests yes­ter­day as thou­sands of Bud­dhists, in­clud­ing monks, demon­strated in a show of op­po­si­tion to a gov­ern­ment edict re­fer­ring to Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in the restive prov­ince, or­gan­is­ers said.

Anti-Mus­lim rhetoric has spiked across Myan­mar re­cently, with two mosques torched by Bud­dhist mobs in just over a week in a coun­try where sec­tar­ian violence has left scores dead since 2012.

Rakhine State – home to about 1 mil­lion state­less Mus­lims who self­i­den­tify as Ro­hingya – has been hard­est hit by re­li­gious violence that has left tens of thou­sands of the per­se­cuted mi­nor­ity in fetid dis­place­ment camps.

The Mus­lims are re­viled by Rakhine Bud­dhists who refuse to recog­nise any shared rights to the prov­ince and in­stead call them “Ben­galis” – or il­le­gal im­mi­grants from nearby Bangladesh.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s new gov­ern­ment has sought to defuse the row over the term “Ro­hingya”, in­stead or­der­ing of­fi­cials to re­fer to “Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Rakhine”.

But pro­test­ers yes­ter­day said that too was un­ac­cept­able as it hands Mus­lims recog­ni­tion in a Bud­dhist state.

“We re­ject the term ‘Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Rakhine State’,” U Kyawt Sein, a protest or­gan­iser in Sit­twe, said, adding more than 1000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing monks, had joined the rally in the state cap­i­tal.

Rally-go­ers there shouted slo­gans in­clud­ing “Pro­tect Rakhine State”, while a protest in the town of Thandwe drew sim­i­lar num­bers.

“Ben­galis should be called Ben­galis,” Ko Phoe Thar Lay, a leader of a lo­cal Rakhine youth group, said, adding that all 17 town­ships across Rakhine were par­tic­i­pat­ing in protests yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Most Ro­hingya live cut off from the Bud­dhist com­mu­nity in dis­place­ment camps or re­mote set­tle­ments since sec­tar­ian ri­ots tore Rakhine apart in 2012.

Per­se­cu­tion and poverty have forced tens of thou­sands to flee by sea, but the dan­ger­ous traf­fick­ing route south through the Bay of Ben­gal was closed late last year dur­ing a Thai crack­down on peo­ple smug­gling.

State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has drawn crit­i­cism from rights groups for not tak­ing up the cause of Mus­lims.

In­stead she has care­fully sought to side­step con­tro­versy, urg­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to give the coun­try “space” to un­pick its sec­tar­ian prob­lems.

Af­ter a 12-day visit to Rakhine and other con­flict sites in Myan­mar, a UN rights in­ves­ti­ga­tor warned on July 1 that “ten­sions along re­li­gious lines re­main per­va­sive across Myan­mar so­ci­ety”.

Yanghee Lee urged the coun­try’s new civil­ian gov­ern­ment to make “end­ing in­sti­tu­tion­alised dis­crim­i­na­tion against the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Rakhine State … an ur­gent pri­or­ity”.

The same day, a mosque was torched by a Bud­dhist mob in the jade-min­ing town of Hpakant in the far north.

That in­ci­dent came eight days af­ter an­other crowd of Bud­dhists de­stroyed an­other mosque in cen­tral Bago Re­gion, forc­ing the Mus­lim com­mu­nity to seek refuge in a neigh­bour­ing town. –

Photo: AFP

Demon­stra­tors hold pro-Rakhine signs at a rally in Sit­twe, Rakhine State, on July 3.

Bud­dhist monks par­tic­i­pate in an anti-Mus­lim demon­stra­tion in Sit­twe, Rakhine State, on July 3.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.