Fears Lead to Anti-OIC Protests

Sittwe: Hundreds of women in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state, have come onto the streets to protest against the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), out of the fear that the OIC intends to interfere in Arakan affairs as well as Myanmar politics.

Nearly 1000 Arakanese women holding posters and signboards peacefully marched through the streets of Sittwe on Wednesday, demanding that the OIC’s plan of opening offices in Sittwe and Yangon be halted.

“We staged a demonstration on Wednesday in Sittwe to protest against the plans of the OIC, which intends to open offices in Sittwe and other places in Burma. We feel the OIC will interfere in our affairs if the organization gets the chance to open offices in our land,” the women’s leader Daw Ma Nyo Aye
said, adding that the recent conflict in Arakan state is an internal affair, and does not warrant OIC intervention.

The demonstration broke out after the Burmese government signed an agreement with the OIC, allowing them to open offices in Sittwe and Yangon following sectarian violence in Arakan state. The women protestors made several demands in their protest regarding the Muslim community in Arakan.

“The OIC is an Islamic umbrella organization; it is not affiliated with our Buddhist country. Why does this organization want to come our country? It is only to interfere in our affairs, there are no other reasons. So we strongly oppose the planned OIC offices opening in our country,” she said.

Before the women protested in Sittwe, there were also some demonstrations in Yangon and Sittwe led by monks concerned about the recent violence against the Buddhist community in Bangladesh. On Tuesday, over 1000 monks in Sittwe peacefully marched into the Bangladesh consulate where they denounced the plan of the OCI to open offices in Burma.

“Protests against the OIC have taken place in many places across Burma in recent days because Burmese people feel that the OIC will come to Burma with the intention of interfering in Burma’s affairs. So people are worried and have conducted these protests against an OIC presence in Burma,” said U Aung Mra Kyaw, a lawmaker in the Arakan state parliament.

Even though there have been many protests against the OCI plan, Burmese authorities are still yet to explain their decision regarding the OIC’s plan to the Burmese people.

Monks in Mandalay and other cities are reportedly prepared to hold similar protests against the OIC plan to open offices in Burma.

According to OIC sources, the OIC will open two offices in Burma – one in Yangon and another in Sittwe – in the very near future and with the agreement of the Burmese government. The Yangon office will be intended for visas and relief efforts, but the Sittwe office will only be concerned with humanitarian assistance.

An OIC delegation and the Burmese Border Affairs Minister Lt Gen Thein Htay signed the agreement on 11 September in Naypyidaw.