Myanmar Buddhists stage protest, insisting Rohingyas be called ‘Bengalis’
Myanmar Buddhist staged a protest on Sunday (Jul 10), with the objective of pressuring the government to use the term “Bengalis” to refer to the Muslim Rohingya community in the country.
The term, used by the former administration, is considered derogatory by some.
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi previously suggested Myanmar citizens avoid the use of terms like “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to describe the beleaguered community as such terms are emotive, and said she preferred to refer to members of the community as “people who believe in Islam living in the Rakhine state”. She also banned officials from using the terms “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to refer to the minority group during the visit of a UN rights envoy.
A similar protest was held last weekend in Arakan (Rakhine) state and yet another is expected in Yangon next week.
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s government must make a public statement to say that the government will listen to its own people. We are helping the government, we are not causing any troubles and conflict,” Myanmar National Network president Win Ko Ko Latt said.
The protesters had marched for about five minutes from the landmark Shwedagon pagoda before they met a police human barricade.
Officers were armed and ready before a short negotiation with the demonstrators. There was a tense moment between the protestors and the police officers initially when the police refused to let the protestors proceed through a route that had not been approved.
“We are marching to our destination peacefully. If you stop us here, it will lead to some problems,” a monk negotiating with the police at the protest said.
Eventually the police allowed them through to avoid casualties, but the protest is now considered illegal. Channel News Asia understands the police may take action against some of the protest leaders for continuing with the demonstration despite not having proper approval.
Human rights officials and groups have slammed Myanmar for the treatment of the Rohingya community in the country.
About 1.5 million Rohingyas live in Arakan (Rakhine) state where they are considered illegal immigrants in their own land, facing restrictions in their movement and confined to certain areas with poor healthcare and a lack of education.
Note: changes have been made, CNA is not responsible for these.