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Sittwe & Yangon | Agencies | November 16, 2013:: Myanmar Buddhist monks led rallies against the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation yesterday as delegates from the Muslim body toured western Rakhine state, where religious violence has torn communities asunder.
The delegation from the world’s top Islamic body is in the country to discuss the response to several bouts of anti-Muslim violence that have left some 250 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.
But the group is treated with deep suspicion by Buddhists in Rakhine, where communities are now almost completely segregated on religious grounds after last year’s unrest, with Muslims making up the vast majority of the 140,000 people displaced.
“No OIC in Rakhine land, respect our sovereignty,” one protesting monk told AFP as hundreds of demonstrators converged on the airport in the state capital Sittwe early Friday.
The delegation met local officials inside the airport yesterday before visiting remote areas by helicopter, an official told AFP.
Myanmar remains tense after eruptions of religious unrest across the country that have cast a shadow over much-lauded reforms and caused concerns among the international community.
The OIC group, which includes the organisation’s chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, met the Myanmar vice president in the capital Naypyidaw on Thursday, accompanied by the ambassadors from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
They discussed the “peace and stability of Rakhine State and rehabilitation” in the region, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar.
In Yangon on Friday rallies against the OIC were led by hundreds of maroon-clad Buddhist monks, a sight formerly associated with brutally-suppressed peaceful rallies for democracy in 2007 known as the Saffron Revolution.
Earlier, around 300 Buddhist monks marched through Yangon Tuesday on 12.11.2103 in protest at a looming visit by delegates from the world’s top Islamic body to Myanmar, which has been rattled by several bouts of anti-Muslim violence.“The OIC is discriminating in giving assistance here. We believe they help only Muslims,” said Rakhawuntha, a protesting monk.
A delegation from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will meet with Muslims and Buddhists during their stay later this week, according to a senior official.
Attacks against Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have overshadowed widely praised political reforms overseen by the former general since military rule ended in 2011.
A total of around 500 protesters, some wielding banners in reading “No OIC” and “OIC get out”, marched through the commercial capital Tuesday, accusing the Islamic bloc of wanting to internationalise the issue of religious violence.
One monk, called Pamaukkha, said the OIC was not welcome because they will deliver a biased assessment of Myanmar’s troubles.
“They will say as majority of Buddhists are abusing a minority group of Muslims,” he added.
“Then they will report on our internal affairs to the UK and the UN.”
Eye-witnesses to violence which flared in March in central Myanmar said people dressed in monks’ robes were involved in the unrest.
Radical monks have also led a campaign to shun shops owned by Muslims.
The OIC delegation will “meet with people working… in Rakhine State and groups working for religious harmony — from both communities,” president’s office spokesman Ye Htut said in a post on his Facebook page.
Courtesy: Myanmar Times | The Malaysian Insider | AP.