09/04/2012, 00.00
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Buddhist monks back President Thein Sein’s move to expel Rohingyas

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Over the weekend thousands of monks marched in Mandalay with the people, to express solidarity with the head of state. He has proposed the expulsion of the Muslim minority, because "it is not part” of the nation of Burma. Expert tells AsiaNews: united front between people, monks and president against the Rohingya, for fear of a Muslim separatist struggle.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The population is in "solidarity" with the monks and with President Thein Sein, who launched a controversial proposal a few days ago to deport the Rohingya Muslim minority outside of the borders of Myanmar. An expert on Burmese politics tells AsiaNews, that it was " a peaceful demonstration, however it emphasized a clear concept: the monks and the people do not want the Rohingya" and do not intend to adhere to the directives of the United Nations urging the government to promote programs and initiatives to promote the integration of the minority, leading to violent clashes in recent months with the Buddhist majority in the State of Rakhine. "We are faced with spontaneous demonstrations - adds the student speaking on the guarantee of anonymity - that the monks could continue for the next 10 days, to show solidarity with the president."

At least 5 thousand Burmese Buddhist monks joined the protest march - authorized by officials and police - which was held September 2 through the streets of Mandalay (pictured), the second largest city of Myanmar. The monks marched along with the population, to support Thein Sein's controversial proposal to the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), which calls for the "deportation" of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to reception centers in foreign countries, because "they are not part of the nation of Burma. "

The marches continued yesterday and today and are the largest street demonstrations since the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, also led by Burmese monks - which began as a protest against the rising price of fuel - and were violently repressed by the military junta then in power. The Buddhist leaders joining in the demonstrations has a huge political and social significance: the Buddhist world supports the choice of the president and is close to popular protest.

Despite having lived for generations in Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim minority denounces an "intensification" of the repressive policy of the central government and the risk of renewed sectarian violence. As reported by the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website, among the most popular slogans by protesters in the square on September 2, was "Let the world know that the Rohingya are not part of the ethnic groups that make up Burma."

Speaking to AsiaNews, an expert on Burmese policy explains that the Muslim minority is frowned upon because it is considered "violent" and carries a "culture and tradition, which does not promote integration." The risk is that the State of Rakhine, the scientist continues, will be "turned into a southern Thailand, the scene of attacks motivated by violence and separatism." "The Muslim children - he adds - will not learn the national language, demanding a different curriculum and have rendering integration and communication" with the Buddhist and Burmese world even more difficult. The protests, warns the source, are set to continue and enjoy the support of the majority of the population.

In June, a district court in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State, sentenced three Muslims to death from raping and killing in late May, Thida Htwe, a young Arakenese Buddhist woman. This sparked violent sectarian clashes between Muslims and Buddhists. After the woman's death, mobs attacked Muslims unconnected to the incident, killing ten. Further violence left a total of 29 people dead, 16 Muslims and 13 Buddhists. In addition, official sources stated that 2,600 homes were torched and that hundreds of Rohingya had fled abroad.

Myanmar is composed of more than 135 ethnic groups, and has always found coexistence difficult. In the past the military junta used an iron fist against the most recalcitrant. Myanmar Muslims constitute about 4% of a population of 60 million people. The UN says there are 750 thousand Rohingyas in the country, concentrated mainly in Rakhine State. Another million or more are scattered in other countries: Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia.



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Anti-Muslim violence could lead to extremism, says archbishop of Yangon
Junta shuts down monastery close to pro-democracy movement
Myanmar, Buddhist monks sue Interior Ministry over 2012 violence
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