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Hostile reception for Rohingya radio broadcast in Rakhine

Local people in Myanmar's restive state upset that government-run station has Bengali language programs

Hostile reception for Rohingya radio broadcast in Rakhine

Anti-Rohingya hard-line Buddhist monks and supporters rally outside Yangon's Thilawa port as a Malaysian ship carrying relief aid for Rohingya Muslim minority arrived on Feb. 9. Anti-Rohingya protests opposing a Rohingya language radiobroadcast have also occurred in the troubled state of Rakhine. (Photo by Romeo Gacad/AFP)

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar

February 16, 2017

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Members of a predominantly Buddhist ethnic group in Myanmar's troubled state of Rakhine have demanded a radio station stop broadcasting in Bengali, the language used by the Muslim Rohingya.

Ethnic Rakhine rallied against the government-run, Rohingya language FM radio station, which first hit the airwaves in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships in northern Rakhine state on Feb. 1.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in several townships on Feb. 10, holding placards emblazoned with slogans saying that it was unacceptable for May Yu FM to broadcast in Bengali.

"We accept FM radio broadcasts in the ethnic Rakhine language but we strongly object to the Bengali language broadcasts as it appears to be favoring the Rohingya and recognizing them as citizens," said Zaw Win from Buthidaung Social Network. He added that the Rohingya are not recognized as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups.

U Sultan, a Rohingya man from Maungdaw, said that he knew about the radio station but did not think it was very useful.

"I don't think it will help local people to know the true stories because government-released news is different from the ground situation in the restive Rakhine region," said Sultan, a retired schoolteacher.

Sultan remembered a Rohingya language radio broadcast in Rakhine in the 1960s under the administration of Prime Minister U Nu because his 10th grade exam results were announced on it.

The radio broadcast ceased when U Nu was ousted during the military coup of General Ne Win in 1962.

The government-run May Yu FM radio is available in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships from 6 to 10am and from 4 to 8pm. It broadcasts mainly news programs in Burmese, Rakhine and Bengali languages.

The Ministry of Information said that it was broadcasting for local residents living in northern Rakhine to disseminate news and information.

Khine Pyi Soe, vice chairman of the Arakan National Party, a hard-line Buddhist party in Rakhine, said it was too early to broadcast in the Bengali language and it might prompt unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding among communities.

"The government must prioritize solving the problems in the communities instead of broadcasting radio programs," Khine Pyi Soe told ucanews.com.

He said that the government needs to allow independent media to access northern Rakhine state if they are "transparent" and "know the ground situation."

Access has been blocked to Maungdaw in northern Rakhine since Oct. 9 when the security forces carried out a bloody crackdown after three police outposts were attacked. It led to more than 69,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh and 24,000 people displaced inside Rakhine. Reports have emerged of security forces committing widespread rights abuses such as killing civilians, including children, burning homes and raping women.

Government officials said on Feb. 15 that its military forces have now ended clearance operations in the state, reported Reuters.

A court in western Myanmar has sentenced to death a man named Uruma for one of the Oct. 9 attacks that killed a military officer, according to the state-run, Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper report on Feb. 14.

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