Monks led protests in Yangon and other cities yesterday (photo by Daniel Wynn)
The government yesterday said it would not allow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to open an office in Myanmar following protests by thousands of Buddhist monks and laypeople.
The Information Ministry cited the office of President Thein Sein in an announcement yesterday that said a new office run by the Saudi-based organization would be “contradictory to the aspirations of the people.”
Monk-led protests were held in four cities yesterday, including Yangon, marking the latest tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. This follows deadly rioting in Rakhine state in the west of the country, which started in June.
State press had said previously that the OIC would open a temporary liaison office in Myanmar so it could carry out humanitarian work in minority Muslim Rohingya areas of Rakhine, where hundreds of homes were burned to the ground during the violence.
Monks in Yangon shouted, “OIC, get out” during a protest march between Shwedagon Pagoda - the most revered Buddhist site in Myanmar - and the City Hall. Similar protests were held in Mandalay and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine.
“We don’t want to have anything to do with the OIC, which is an Islamic organization,” said one Buddhist monk protesting in Yangon. “We are worried that its presence will create more racial and religious violence in our country.”
The OIC, which strongly condemned the recent violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar, includes 57 member countries and seeks to be the voice of the Muslim world.
Fresh unrest in Rakhine State
Even aid workers are not safe from Rohingya-Rakhine clashes