A delegation from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) wrapped up a four-day visit to Burma on Saturday, pledging humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance to the communities affected and displaced by communal violence in Arakan state.
In a joint statement with the Central Committee for Implementation of Stability and Development in Rakhine State issued on Sunday, the OIC delegation said it had “assured the [Burmese] government of the principled position of the OIC, OIC institutions and its member states not to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion in the provision of humanitarian assistance.”
It further stated that any assistance would be provided “on a non-discriminatory basis” though the Burmese government.
The OIC delegation also called on Naypyidaw “to continue legal reforms, including repealing laws restricting fundamental freedoms.”
The OIC website confirmed that the delegation, headed by Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, visited IDP camps in Arakan state where they “listened to Rakhine [Arakanese] Buddhists and Muslims, giving them a message of assurance that the OIC seeks to help both communities in order for them to live together in peace and harmony.”
It said that “throngs” of Muslims, mainly from the Rohingya community, lined the streets to greet the delegation.
The Associated Press estimated that 5,000 people from the IDP camps near Sittwe turned out to meet the OIC delegation. Its report said that the OIC secretary-general was reduced to tears by the emotional visit.
“I never had such a feeling,” AP quoted Ihsanoglu saying on Saturday.
Ahead of the trip to Arakan state by representatives of the Islamic bloc, demonstrations were staged at various cities across Burma, protesting the visit.
Buddhist monks led more than 5,000 residents on a demonstration through the streets of Arakan state capital Sittwe on Friday morning, while similar street protests were held in Rangoon and Lashio in the days before.
The OIC consists of 57 member states, including Burma’s neighbours India and Bangladesh, as well as fellow ASEAN member states Malaysia and Indonesia, with Thailand as an observer. China too requested observer status to the bloc in 2012.
The OIC has a permanent delegation at the UN, and is the largest international organisation outside the United Nations.