YANGON, Myanmar (Anadulu Agency): Myanmar has arrested a Muslim publisher and four others for printing a calendar that used quotes to support the country’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority, local media reported Wednesday.
The calendar used what it said were the words of former Myanmar prime minister U Nu to debunk the official view that the Rohingya are not a real ethnic minority.
It has angered Buddhist extremists who regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and insist that they should be referred to as “Bengalis”.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship under a 1982 law that has been widely condemned by rights groups.
Most members of the minority live under apartheid-like conditions in western Rakhine state following mob violence led by Buddhists in 2012.
The Myanmar Times reported Wednesday that publisher Kyaw Kyaw Wai and his associates were arrested in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon earlier this week, after quotes from the calendar were widely shared on Facebook by Buddhist nationalists.
The five face up to two years in prison for causing “fear or alarm to the public”.
It is the latest instance of police arresting people at the behest of Buddhist extremists who preach that Myanmar is under threat from Islam.
A New Zealander and his two Myanmar colleagues were jailed earlier this year after using an image of Buddha wearing headphones to advertise an event at their Yangon bar.
Htin Lin Oo, a prominent member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was jailed after a speech last October in which he criticised the use of Buddhism to justify extremism.
The NLD is due to take power around late March after winning a landslide victory in a Nov. 8 election. Spokesperson Win Htein has vowed the party will make releasing political prisoners a “top priority”.
But in a recent interview with Anadolu Agency, he declined to comment on whether or not Buddhist extremists would pose a challenge to releasing certain prisoners.