Protests condemning the term started after the US embassy released a statement using “Rohingya” to express condolences about a recent boat accident in Arakan (Rakhine) State that killed over 20 people. Monks and nationalists staged an unauthorised protest outside the embassy gates on April 28 and said that anyone using the word “Rohingya” is an enemy of the state.
Nationalists brought the issue to the streets in Myanmar’s second-largest city on May 13 as they continue to apply pressure on the government to define the official terminology. The contentiousness rests on how to describe a group of Muslims mainly living in Arakan (Rakhine) State who self-identify as “Rohingya”. They are not included in the government’s list of 135 officially recognised ethnic groups.
The recent demonstration included the reading out of letters from monks belonging to Ma Ba Tha – the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion – including a letter from firebrand monk U Wirathu.
“The US government seems to want democracy, yet it disturbs Myanmar’s democracy. It seems to want development, yet it makes Myanmar poor. It seems to want peace, yet it incites the country to violence,” read a letter sent U Wirathu. Ignoring the wish of all Myanmar nationals and prioritising the wishes of illegal immigrants is the biggest provocation, the letter continued.
Monks who participated in the rally said they would continue protesting until the US embassy gives in to their demands and refrains from using the contested term. US ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel has said the US respects the international convention of allowing people to self-identify, yet he has avoided using either the terms “Rohingya” or “Bengali”.
“We will continue to urge the embassy to refrain from using ‘Rohingya’ and to issue an official statement for that. We will protest until they stop using it,” said sayadaw U Eadrawbathaka, deputy chair of the Myo Chit Myanmar Monks Association in Mandalay.
“Myanmar is a sovereign nation. So, the US embassy has no authority to use the term ‘Rohingya’,” he said.
The protest in Mandalay was organised by the Myo Chit Myanmar Monks Association Mandalay and the Wuntharnu Rekhita Youth Association. The Myanmar Nationalists Network from Yangon also participated in the protest. Hundreds of people reportedly participated in the rally, which obtained a permit.
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Source: Myanmar Times