World Bulletin / News Desk
Almost 500 Arakanese Buddhist women took to the streets of Sittwe on Wednesday to protest the government decision to allow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to open an aid office in Arakan State, reported Rohingya Blogger.
A spokesperson for the OIC, however, told the Irrawaddy that the office was not intended as a flagship for the Rohingya cause, and that it would provide humanitarian aid to both Buddhist and Muslim communities in the form of food and shelter.
Dr. Aye Maung, the chairman of Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), said that his party would accept all the help and humanitarian aid that was provided to those affected by the sectarian violence in the region.
He stressed, however, that the RNDP objected to an OIC office in Arakan State capital Sittwe, and suggested that the group base its operations out of either Rangoon or Naypyidaw.
The 57-member OIC is a mostly Muslim bloc of nations which includes all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia. It encompasses some 1.6 billion people worldwide.
The OIC signed an MoU with the Burmese government on Aug. 11 to permit the group to open an office for humanitarian purposes in Rangoon and Sittwe. A delegation from the OIC then traveled to Arakan State in September to inspect the aftermath of communal clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in the strife-torn region.
Approximately 200 women began demonstrating on Wednesday afternoon in central Sittwe wearing t-shirts with slogans reading “No OIC.” As the protest gained momentum, an estimated 300 more women joined in.
“We are protesting because we heard that the OIC is coming to our country. We do not want them based here,” said protester Nyo Aye.
She told the Irrawaddy that the Buddhist women demonstrators supported the 1982 Citizenship Law, which fails to recognize the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group of Burma.
“The Bengali Muslims [Rohingyas] are illegal immigrants,” she said. “They should be sent to other countries.”