Myanmar Nationalists March to Ban ‘Rohingya’

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Myanmar nationalists march to ban 'Rohingya'

Kyaw Ye Lynn | Anadolu Agency

YANGON (AA): Several hundred nationalists have taken to the streets of Myanmar’s second largest city to call on the government to declare within three days that there is no Rohingya ethnicity in the country.

Protesters at the unauthorized Mandalay demonstration — attended by monks and nationalist activists — demanded that President Htin Kyaw and state counselor-cum-foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi denounce the United States embassy for the use of the word to describe the Muslim minority.

Tint Lwin, an organizer of the protest in the stronghold of hardline Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, told Anadolu Agency that marchers demanded that the government issue a statement denouncing the use of the word.

“We have planned a series of protests in several cities until the government issues such a statement,” he added.

Such nationalists refuse to recognize the term, instead referring to the Muslim ethnic group as “Bengali”, which suggests they are illegal immigrants from neighboring country Bangladesh.

Tint Lwin said that the government should follow the way of ex-president Thein Sein, who officially declared that Myanmar has no Rohingya, just Bengali.

Thein Sein’s government gave way to that of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) at the end of March, after losing the Nov. 8, 2015 election.

“The U.S. ambassador also should show some respect to people and government of Myanmar,” Tint Lwin underlined.

On April 28, around 500 Buddhist nationalists staged an unauthorized demonstration outside the embassy in Yangon to protest the use of the term to describe the country’s stateless and persecuted Muslim minority.

The embassy used the term in a recent statement to illustrate its concerns about the situation in western Rakhine State, where communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims since 2012 has left dozens dead, around 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned — most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Following nationalist pressure, Suu Kyi’s foreign ministry asked the embassy to cease use of the word.

The U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, however, said Tuesday that he was in favor of continued use of Rohingya.

“They get to choose what they want to be called,” Scot Marciel was quoted as saying in a meeting at the American Center in Yangon. “Our international practice is to recognize that communities anywhere in the world have the right to choose what they should be called.”

Marciel avoided using the actual term himself, however.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Friday, Pamaukha, a Yangon-based prominent Ma Ba Tha monk, said that the U.S. had made the issue of the use of the word more difficult to be solved.

“They are not helping our country,” he underlined.

Myanmar’s army chief, Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, reiterated at a press conference Friday that the military would never accept the term.

“The citizenship issue of these Bengali immigrants must be solved first in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Act,” local media quoted him saying.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship under the law, which has been widely condemned by rights groups.

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