Burma’s government has rejected calls for an international inquiry into recent waves of anti-Muslim violence, following media reports that the world’s top Islamic body would request to send a delegation to the country to discuss the unrest.
“In my opinion, recent conflicts inside the country are [Burma’s] internal affairs,” government spokesman Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, adding that the government had not yet received a formal request for access from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Ye Htut, who is also Burma’s deputy minister of information, said the government had taken good care to handle religious tension and violence against Muslims in the Buddhist-majority nation.
“So I believe there is no reason for an international organization to intervene,” he said.
The OIC has urged Burmese authorities to allow a ministerial delegation from the Islamic body to visit Burma and discuss ongoing religious tensions that have pitted Buddhists against Muslims there, AFP reported on Monday.
OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told the news agency that violence against minority Rohingya Muslims last year in western Burma and rioting-related deaths of dozens of Muslims last month in central Burma was “unacceptable.”
In a statement released after an OIC meeting in Saudi Arabia, the pan-Islamic body also urged the UN Human Rights Commission to undertake a fact-finding mission in the country related to the violence.
But Ye Htut said the OIC had not made any formal moves for access to Burma.
“We only know about the OIC’s decision at their meeting [to request access] from the international media,” he said. “They still haven’t sent us a formal request.”
He added that national, state and divisional governments were investigating the unrest and taking action against those who had broken the law.
According to government reports, 43 people were killed last month during three days of clashes in the central Burma town of Meikhtila, while 86 people were injured and 1,355 houses, shops and buildings were destroyed.
Last week, the Muslim owners of a gold shop were sentenced to more than 10 years in prison after an altercation at their shop with a Buddhist customer sparked rioting in the town.
Nearly 13,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced in the ensuing violence, which spread to 11 townships in Mandalay and Pegu divisions, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Ye Htut said the government was arranging to relocate internally displaced persons.
Meanwhile, Buddhists monks in eight townships of Magwe Division, central Burma, sent a letter to the President’s Office on Monday saying they believed OIC intervention was unnecessary.
The leading monks said the Meikhtila conflict was not racially or religiously motivated, adding that the situation had already settled.
Kawanedaw Batha, a prominent monk in Magwe’s Pakokku Township, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that he hoped the government would listen to the public’s desires and prevent the OIC from sending a delegation or opening an office in the country.
The Islamic organization’s attempt last year to open an office in Burma following the clashes in Arakan State was also met with widespread criticism by Buddhist monks and the Burmese public.