World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of Buddhist monks marched in Myanmar's two biggest cities on Monday to protest against efforts by the world's biggest Islamic body to help Rohingya Muslims targeted in deadly communal clashes four months ago.
The monks denounced plans by the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to set up a liaison office in northwest Rakhine state, where violence erupted in June between ethnic Buddhist Rakhines and Rohingyas.
Just hours after the monks dispersed, President Thein Sein's office announced it would not permit an OIC representation in Myanmar. It was not immediately clear if the announcement was linked to the protests or had been planned in advance.
"The government will not allow the opening of an OIC office as it is not in accordance with the desire of people," said a statement posted on its website.
Some carried placards with the words "get out OIC", and "no OIC" and said they would hold demonstrations until the government agreed to their demands.
Despite being one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries, there is entrenched ill-feeling in Myanmar towards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas, most of whom live in abject conditions.
Accused of being illegal immigrants and usually referred to as Bengalis because of their South Asian origin, the Rohingyas are not recognised as citizens by Myanmar.
"The OIC is only for Bengalis, not for us," said monk Pyin Nyar Nanda at one of the rallies.
A delegation from the OIC visited Rakhine state last month after several Muslim countries voiced concern about the violence against the Rohingyas, whom the United Nations has described as "virtually friendless".
In a report in August, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had found evidence of "state-sponsored persecution and discrimination" against the Rohingyas in the weeks after the violence, claims that the government denied.
While all sides of the political spectrum have called for calm, the issue has become a hot political issue for Nobel laureate and lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi. She has faced international criticism for failing to speak out in defence of the Rohingyas, who are denied the same rights as Burmese.
During the trouble, many Rohingyas tried to flee in rickety boats to neighbouring Bangladesh, which also refuses to recognise them. Most were turned back by security forces.
The government had earlier indicated it would consider allowing the OIC to open a temporary office in the Rakhine capital, Sittwe, where aid groups and journalists say the two communities remain deeply divided.
With an increasing amount of women trying to escaping the violence and poverty in their homeland, many women, including teenagers, are being forced into marriages to avoid being sold into prostitution.
Beijin will limit the number of cars on streets and will close down factories to ensure the air is cleaner for the September 3 military parade.
The military chief commader handed in his resignation over the weekend and tried to smooth concerns, saying the armed forces were stable.
Chinese influence in Africa – political, economic and in terms of 'soft power' – now appears unstoppable, experts say
Japan is one of Washingtons key allies and will investigate the wikileaks claim of US spying on Japan
140 killed over past two weeks in Pakistan and as officials say 800,000 affected by flooding
Active member of Runda Kumpulan Kecil group reportedly killed in 30-minute gunfight in Narathiwat province
Senior commander Umar Lateef was killed and his wife detained during an overnight raid. Punjab province had placed a $20,000 bounty for his capture.
The situation for some 140,000 Rohingya, many of whom are confined to flimsy tent-like cities, is dire as rescuers are unable to reach them.
Egypt has continued its war against the Muslim Brotherhood by sentencing 300 Muslim Brotherhood members for three to ten years in prison
In a joint operation, the US and New Zealand tested weapons which could emulate a 33 ft tsunami as a possible alternative to a nuclear bomb.
Turkish president stops over in Islamabad to meet Pakistani prime minister
Integrated Community Shelter built in Aceh with $420,000 in funding from various parties inside and outside of country
For the first time maritime militia could get its own fishing fleet, a boost for the world’s largest producer and exporter of fish
Mullah Akhtar Mansour's message is aimed at fending off the emerging risk of the group splintering into factions
The Afghan Defense Ministry has also claimed that the Nawzad district in southern Helmand province has been reclaimed two days after Taliban overran it