Buddhists in the town of Akyab (Sittwe) in western Myanmar’s restive Arakan (Rakhine) state submitted an open letter to the country’s leaders on Friday saying they will not accept terms other than “Bengali” to refer to the members of the minority Muslim community who belongs there.
Hundreds of Buddhist residents and monks signed the letter to State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Htin Kyaw, and military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, said Aung Htay, a local resident who signed the document.
The speakers of the upper and lower house of parliament, the heads of several ministries, and the leaders of the Arakan (Rakhine) state government also received the letter.
The government issued an order last month directing state-owned media to use the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine state” to refer to the roughly 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims who belongs there—during a visit by Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s special envoy on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Lee ended her 12-day mission to Myanmar on Friday.
The country’s majority Buddhists refuse to use the term Rohingya to refer to members of the group, whom they consider to be “Bengalis,”. But the government now also forbids the use of the term “Bengalis.”
“The use of the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine state” means there are two groups—Buddhists and Muslims—who live [here],” Aung Htay told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The letter is part of a larger campaign in Akyab (Sittwe) in which Buddists have posted notices on the walls of people’s homes, indicating that they do not accept the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine state,” he said.
The protesters are planning to carry out the same campaign in 17 other townships in Arakan (Rakhine) on Sunday, he said.
Note: Changes have been made, RFA is not responsible for these.