Mon 15 Oct 2012
Filed under: International,News,Religion
Myanmar – Myanmar’s government said it would not allow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to open a liaison office after thousands of Buddhist monks and laymen marched Monday to protest the plan.
Sectarian tensions have been running high in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state after clashes broke out in June between the Buddhist Rakhine community and Bengali Rohingya Muslims, leaving nearly 90 people dead and displacing tens of thousands. Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples were burned down during the unrest, and tensions still exist.
Myanmar and the OIC agreed last month to open an office in Yangon to provide aid for Muslims displaced by the fighting, and the OIC sent a team to investigate the violence.
On Monday, the website of the Information Ministry cited the President’s Office as saying “the opening of the OIC office will not be allowed as it is contradictory to the aspirations of the people.”
The anti-OIC protests were held in four cities in Myanmar, including Yangon, the country’s largest city, where about 5,000 people turned out. Some said they were marching to safeguard Buddhism.
Holding banners reading “We don’t want OIC” and “Long live Buddhism,” the protesters marched from the landmark Shwedagon pagoda to the city center, shouting slogans against the OIC and converging at Sule pagoda in downtown, paralyzing traffic in the area.
Similar protests were staged in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe and Myanmar’s second-largest city, Mandalay.
Reflecting widespread public opinion, the head of an influential privately owned news magazine, Weekly Eleven, said there was no need for an OIC office because “we are not a member of the OIC and we are not an Islamic country.”
“If the OIC wants to provide humanitarian aid, they can do so through NGOs or the U.N.,” Than Htut Aung told The Associated Press. “The opening of an OIC office amounts to inflaming further tension between Rakhine people and the Bengalis, and we will not allow the opening of an OIC office in Myanmar.”