“OIC Unwanted”: Buddhist Monks Hold Demonstration in Sittwe

Dhaka: Protesting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s plan to open offices in Burma, over 1000 Buddhist monks held a peaceful demonstration on Tuesday outside the Bangladesh Consulate in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State.

An eyewitness said that the Buddhist monks were from almost all of the monasteries in Sittwe and that they marched to the Bangladesh Consulate, located in Anuk San Pya ward, shouting “OIC unwanted in Arakan State, unwanted in Burma” throughout the demonstration.

“The demonstration started at 2:30pm in front of the consulate. There were over 1000 monks participating. The security forces closed off the street during the demonstration, not allowing any laypeople to join to the monks,” said the witness.

However U Pinnyazawta, one of the leading monks taking part in the demonstration, told Narinjara that thousands of laypeople later joined them and that their demonstration eventually resembled a mass-movement.

“We started our demonstration with around 1000 monks. I think there would have been a hundred thousand people who later joined our demonstration. The whole street outside the consulate was filled with people. It was a peaceful demonstration and we voiced our desires during the demonstration,” said U Pinnyazawta.

Photo by: Coral Arakan

The monk said they made five demands during the demonstrations, which are: that the OIC not be permitted to open offices in Sittwe, Arakan State; that the OIC not be allowed to open an office in Yangon either; the relocation of Muslim families from Aung Mingalar Ward to the outskirts of Sittwe for peaceful co-existence with Arakanese; for the Bangladesh government to protect the minority Buddhist community in Bangladesh and finally for people to support the President’s decision regarding  immigrant Bengalis.

Concerning with their protest against the OIC’s offices, the monk said, “The OIC is a foreign organization established by Islamic countries and they have nothing to do with our country. We don’t want the OIC to interfere in our home affairs by opening its offices in our country. So, we are protesting against it.”

The people who participated in the monks’ demonstration are also said to have supported the monks’ call against the OIC.

The monk said that they concluded their demonstration at 4pm without any interference by the authorities, as it was conducted with legal permission.