Myanmar: Army warned off extremist comment in Arakan
YANGON – Myanmar’s powerful army chief has warned military personnel to avoid expressing extreme views on religion during a visit to western Arakan(Rakhine) State, where state sponsored violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya has left dozens dead since 2012.
Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s visit comes as Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government tries to rebuild relationships between the two communities, and boost the economy of one of the country’s poorest areas.
On Wednesday, Min Aung Hlaing underlined to officials, soldiers and families the battle against extremism in a meeting in the western state’s capital Akkyab(Sittwe), during an on-going rescue and relief operation for victims of the monsoon season.
“Anyone can protect and safeguard their own religion and culture in a fair and just manner without [resorting to] extremism,” he said, according to a statement released Wednesday by his office.
Since her victory in the Nov. 8 election, State Counselor Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Arkaneses Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country’s Buddhists, many of whom have simply accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country’s Buddhist traditions.
Such groups are demanding that the government adopt the term “Bengali” to refer to the Arkanese Rohingya — described by the United Nations as among the world’s most persecuted minority groups. The term suggests the Rohingya are not Myanmar nationals, but illegal migrants.
The government has instead suggested to the United Nations and the international community that “Muslim community in Rakhine state” should be used instead of “Bengali” or “Rohingya” to avoid inflaming tensions.
During Tuesday’s trip, the army chief outlined that Buddhists account for 52 million, or 87 percent of Arakan’s (Rakhine) population, while 6 percent follow Christianity and 4 percent Islam and other faiths.
The statement comes as an infamous monk-led group formed after the violence in Arakan (Rakhine) in 2012 — the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (better known as Ma Ba Tha) — faces dissolution.
The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Wednesday that Ma Ba Tha is an unlawful association under the Sangha (monk) organization law, citing a statement of the government-sponsored committee — the State Sangha Mahayanaka Committee — tasked with regulating Buddhist orders.
Ma Ba Tha is responsible for a series of laws seen as designed to stop Muslims having multiple wives, large families and marrying Buddhist women, draws support from the country’s uneducated Buddhist masses, and has rapidly become one of the country’s most powerful and hate spreading religious organizations.
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Source: Anadulo Agency