Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Burmese Buddhists march over visit

Buddhist monks protest in Yangon, Burma (AP)

Hundreds of Buddhists are marching through the streets of Burma's biggest city to protest against an upcoming visit by a high-level delegation from the world's biggest Islamic political bloc.

Some of those marching in Yangon carried banners saying "Get out" and "Stop interfering in our internal affairs".

Representatives of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a grouping of 57 Islamic countries, will arrive on Wednesday to speak to government leaders about sectarian violence that has gripped the predominantly Buddhist nation for more than a year.

More than 240 people have been killed and 240,000 others forced to flee their homes, many of them members of Burma's minority Rohingya Muslim community.

The OIC's secretary general and seven foreign ministers will travel on Thursday to Burma's western Rakhine state to visit camps for displaced Rohingya.

Tuesday's rally, joined by nearly 200 Buddhist monks and about 100 laymen waving yellow, white and red religious flags, began at Yangon's famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Clogging traffic, they wound through the streets to City Hall.

"The OIC is one-sided," said Pamaukkha, one of the monks who organised the protest.

The situation in Rakhine state has been especially tense, with allegations by Buddhist Rakhine that international humanitarian organisations operating in Burma are biased in favour of Rohingya, something they vehemently deny.

After repeated threats, some of the organisations have temporarily suspended operations in certain areas.

Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said if the OIC wants to see stability restored to the state, it is best the delegation not visit.

AP

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