Hundreds of Buddhist monks and civilians staged a demonstration in Rangoon on Tuesday to protest a visit to Burma by representatives of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) scheduled for the following day.
Around 500 protestors marched from the eastern gate of Shwedagon Pagoda to the City Hall at around 1pm.
“We don’t want foreign countries meddling with our racial and religious affairs – we don’t want OIC representatives discussing our racial and religious affairs,” said Buddhist monk Parmouhka of Magwe Pariyatti Monastery in Rangoon’s North Dagon township. “If they [OIC] set up an office in our country it will create religious riots. This is our country and we want it to be under our rule.”
Meanwhile, another 300 people held a similar protest in Insein township, on the other side of the city. Organisers of both demonstrations received official permission from local authorities to stage the protests.
“We don’t want the OIC in Burma, and we would like the people of our country to be aware of the Citizenship Law,” said Naung Taw Lay, a protest organiser. “We are calling for action to be taken against corrupt government officials and the animals who are trying to become citizens of our country by deceitful means.”
The OIC delegation – which arrives on Wednesday and is due to visit Arakan state on Thursday – will consist of high-level officials and foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the general secretary of the OIC, recently told a Saudi news agency that the delegation aimed to show the Islamic world that it was paying serious attention to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
But the Burmese government’s Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said the OIC delegation was only on a routine diplomatic mission.
“This trip has nothing to do with the OIC opening an office in this country,” he said. “The government of Burma will never approve anything that will harm the sovereignty of our nation and we want our people to know that.”
He added that the Burmese government had only arranged for the OIC delegation to observe the rehabilitation process for Rohingyas and to meet with leaders of both communities as well as representatives of political parties.”
The OIC delegation is also scheduled to meet with Burmese government officials and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during their visit.