Buddhists rally against Rohingya migrants

Myanmar’s Buddhists monks lead protesters claiming Rohingya people 'do not exist'

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

As international outrage intensifies over the migrant crisis in South Asian waters, in the place from where the problem originates extremists are heading to the streets.

Hundreds of Buddhists, led by hard line monks, marched through the streets of Yangon - Myanmar's largest city - shouting slogans against Rohingya Muslims and anyone who defends their rights.

Wednesday's rally came after continuous reports about mass graves and "boat people" stranded at sea, mostly Rohingya Muslims, who have been fleeing persecution and face discrimination in Buddhist majority Myanmar.

The country's treatment of stateless Rohingya Muslims is in the spotlight once again with the gruesome discoveries of tortured and abandoned people in the jungles of south Asia, after machete-wielding extremists killed hundreds of Rohingya two years ago. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have taken to the seas to find better lives elsewhere. More than a million who still live in Myanmar suffer apartheidlike conditions and are denied citizenship.

Angry at the international attention and criticism of their country, demonstrators in Myanmar took the streets on Wednesday, accusing those who defend Rohingya Muslims of unfairly blaming Myanmar. They claim the Rohingya people "do not exist" and those who have landed or been rescued at sea were from Bangladesh.

Banners called the Rohingya migrants "terrorists" and "beasts," Reuters has reported.

"Bengali people don't respect Buddhism, so they are not Myanmar citizens. It's as simple as that," Thu Dammyra, a monk from the right-wing Ma Ba Tha Buddhist organization told Reuters.

Buddhists monks have also demanded the Myanmar government resist international pressure to give the Rohingya more rights during the scheduled crisis meeting in Thailand.

Over a million Rohingya are regarded as "illegal immigrants" from Bangladesh and called "Bengalis" in Myanmar, despite the fact that they have lived in the country for generations. Myanmar uses the same language against migrants who are the victims of human traffickers and refuses to take responsibility for their plight.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are still believed to be stranded in the Andaman Sea.

Malaysian authorities have recently uncovered nearly 140 graves believed to hold the bodies of migrants, after Thailand found similar mass graves at the beginning of May.

Twelve Malaysian police officials have been detained on suspicion of links to people-smuggling, a government minister said on Wednesday.

TRTWorld and agencies