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Monks again march in Myanmar to protest 'Rohingya'

Kyaw Ye Lynn
May 22, 2016

With US secretary of state visiting Myanmar, hardliners gather to protest US use of term in recent statement

YANGON, Myanmar -- Protests demanding the government ban the word “Rohingya” took place in Myanmar Sunday, with nationalists marching in commercial capital Yangon as well as in Taung Gyi in restive Shan State.

The demonstrations are aimed at pressuring President Htin Kyaw and state counselor-cum-foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi to denounce the United States embassy in the country for using the word to describe the stateless and persecuted Muslim minority.

Hardline nationalists refuse to recognize the term, instead referring to the ethnic group as "Bengali", which suggests they are illegal immigrants from neighboring country Bangladesh.

In Taung Gyi, capital of eastern Shan, a march jointly organized by the Taung Gyi-based National Security Network and Yangon-based Myanmar National Network, saw around 100 protesters take to the streets with banners emblazoned “No Rohingya”.

“We are helping nationalists in other cities and towns across the country to protest against the use of the word,” Win Ko Ko Latt, founder of the Myanmar National Network, told Anadolu Agency by phone from Taung Gyi, the capital of Shan State around 644 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Yangon.

“We want to let the U.S. embassy and other international organizations know that Myanmar people will never recognize that word. I want our government to announce that the country never has Rohingya ethnic group and will never recognize it.”

With the U.S secretary of state, John Kerry, visiting Myanmar on Sunday, monks from hardline Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha -- the Committee for Protection of Race and Religion – began to gather in Yangon to protest the country's use of the term in a recent statement.

The trip will see Kerry is meet Myanmar military chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and state counselor-cum-foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi before he joins U.S. President Barack Obama in Vietnam on Monday.

“I want to tell John Kerry to review their policy of terminology. The term 'Rohingya' is not good for Myanmar,” Buddhist monk Pyin Nyein Da -- one of the organizers of the protest -- told Anadolu Agency.

“It will only create chaos here,” he added.

The U.S. embassy used the term in a recent statement to illustrate its concerns about the situation in western Rakhine State, where communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims since 2012 has left dozens dead, around 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Following nationalist pressure, Suu Kyi’s foreign ministry asked the embassy to cease use of the word.

The U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, however, said last week that he was in favor of continued use of "Rohingya".

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