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Islamic organization arrives in Myanmar amid protests

November 13, 2013

Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) delegates arrived in Myanmar Wednesday for a five-day visit to assess anti-Muslim violence in the predominantly Buddhist country.

The delegation, led by OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, was met by about 20 protesters at Yangon International Airport, including 10 monks, carrying signboards saying "OIC Get Out."

On Tuesday about 300 protesters, including about 200 Buddhist monks, marched in Yangon to oppose the OIC's visit, accusing the group of interfering with Myanmar's internal affairs.

The delegation was scheduled to travel to Naypyitaw, the capital, where they will meet government officials and legislators from Rakhine State. Sectarian fighting broke out in the state last year leaving more than 167 dead, primarily Muslims.

On Friday the OIC team will travel to the Rakhine, in western Myanmar, to visit camps for the more than 140,000 people displaced by the 2012 violence and interview both Buddhist and Muslim residents.

They plan to hold talks with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday, and depart Sunday, Myanmar government officials said.

Myanmar has witnessed a surge in anti-Muslim violence and riots since the country came under ostensible civilian rule in 2011.

There have been at least five anti-Muslim riots in Myanmar this year, the latest of which broke out in the town of Thandwe, 270 kilometres north-west of Yangon. At least four Muslims were reported to have been killed.

Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, has a population of an estimated 1 million Muslims, mostly Rohingyas, a self-proclaimed ethnic minority group that was made stateless in Myanmar by a law passed in 1982.

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