President Yields to Protesters, Says No to OIC Office

A Buddhist monk wearing an anti-OIC sign marches in Pakokku, Sagaing Division, on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

A Buddhist monk wearing an anti-OIC sign marches in Pakokku, Sagaing Division, on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Burma’s President Thein Sein announced on Monday that he will not allow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to open an office in the country, following a week of protests against the move by Buddhist monks and their supporters.

More than ten thousand people filled the streets of several cities across the country on Monday, as protesters vowed to continue the mass demonstrations until their demands were met.

Protests were held in Rangoon, Mandalay, Pakokku, Sittwe and Rathetaung to denounce the government’s decision to allow the OIC to operate a humanitarian aid office in the country in the wake of communal clashes between Buddhists and Muslims earlier this year.

The largest protests were held in Sittwe, capital of Arakan State, where ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and  Rohingya Muslims attacked each other in deadly riots in June. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the violence.

Witnesses in Sittwe said that today’s protest drew more than 8,000 people. A rally in Rathetaung, also in Arakan State, attracted a crowd of around 1,000.

“We came out to show that we are against the opening of an OIC office in Burma,” said U Latkhana, a leading monk from the Bawdimandai Monastery in Pakokku, Sagaing Division. “We don’t accept the opening of an OIC office in Burma, either in Rangoon or in Sittwe.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Maj Zaw Htay, the director of the President’s Office, said that the government’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the OIC only allowed the organization to open a temporary office to deal with humanitarian affairs.

“People all over the country think this temporary office is an OIC branch office, but we can negotiate to make changes to the MoU,” said Zaw Htay.

Speaking before Thein Sein’s decision was announced, he  added that the president would respect the people’s concerns and act accordingly.

The decision to suspend the agreement was first broken on the Facebook page of Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut, who said that “the full announcement will be broadcast in the late evening news.”

As promised, the state-run broadcaster MRTV4 announced the news on Monday evening.

Demonstrations have been held since last week in Mandalay, Rangoon and Sittwe to oppose the opening of an OIC office in Sittwe. Several thousand monks also protested against the destruction of Buddhist monasteries in Cox’s Bazar in neighboring Bangladesh.

Burma’s Ministry of Border Affairs and a delegation led by OIC ambassador Ufuk Gokcen signed an MoU on Sept. 9 allowing the organization to provide humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected persons in Arakan State.

The 57-member OIC 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.

11 Responses to President Yields to Protesters, Says No to OIC Office

  1. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    What a great relieve to hear the announcement of Burmese government’s cancellation of its MoU with Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)! This is absolutely right decision to calm down situation and maintain peace and stability on the ground in Rakhine State of Burma. OIC has been a part of the problem by promoting slanderous accusation of mass murder, genocide, and ethnic cleaning in the international community, an act of complete bias on the issue and outrageous insults to the whole nation of Burma. 

    Because of its active bias, basing on fabricated videos, pictures and propaganda of Muslim extremist groups against Rakhine people, OIC is not what it said it is, but another agent of blind faith based groups focusing on prejudice, hate and racial discrimination against non-believers of its faith: Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian. 

    No to OIC Office, a decision of Burmese government sounds like the ear of the President of Burma finally ringing with the voices of the Burmese people. Thank you very much Mr. President for paying attention to the outcry of Burmese people. No to OIC!  No to OIC!  The future of Burma seems brighter and brighter every day as current government of Burma doesn’t hesitate to correct its decision by listening to the voices of people.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  2. รักเธอ.. ด.

    Thein Sein DID  THE RIGHT THING of course.
    Well, he knows the GAME as well.
    He stood up to the Chinese communists against Myitsone Dam Project.
    And now he stood with the people of Burma against the opening of the OIC office in Burma. 
    He certainly DESERVES our APPLAUD in these cases of course.
    Next he should move against the CRONIES GRABBING PEOPLE’S LANDS and LIVELIHOODS today asthe people DESERVE a FAIR GO for that matter as well.
    And let’s see what happens when Daw Suu moves to AMEND/ABOLISH Than Shwe’s constitution in the parliament at Naypyidaw I say.

  3. Intolerance is itself a form of violence and
    an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

    • The Burmese Freedom Fighter

      So, how do we speak out? Maybe the answer lies in becoming intolerant as well. If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.

      The Burmese Freedom Fighter

      • Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge and bigotry with tolerance.

        • The Burmese Freedom Fighter

          Stop confusing Burmese people tolerance with submissiveness. Standing up for their right against the religion freak OIC is not intolerance, it is protection of the nation of all faith.

          The Burmese Freedom Fighter 

  4. In my opinion, the President is doing the right thing. Letting OIC in troubled Arakan will be like pouring gasoline on the fire. If OIC cares, it better send fund to the UNHCR and let UNHCR handle the Rohingyas, then pick them up and resettle them in Muslim nations.

  5. OIC
    has no business in Buddhist country. OIC has to do a lot of thing for Muslim
    refugees from Syria
    conflict and Africa Muslim countries.

    purpose of opening office in Burma
    is to spread Islam religion in Burma.
    Societies in European countries are suffering from Muslim invasion which costs
    the host peoples freedom of speech, religion, custom, tradition, culture,
    security and social harmony. That’s why anti Muslim is growing in Netherlands,
    Demark, Germany
    and other European countries.

    Aussie children can no longer celebrate Christmas or religion ceremony at
    School and peoples have to very careful about the language they used with
    Muslim. Peoples of host countries lives are losing their freedom and life style
    because of Muslims complaining about the host nation culture and tradition
    which are against their religion. Even the Muslim leaders are openly asking to
    host nation to embrace Muslim custom, culture and Islamic Sharia Law. Some of
    opportunist politicians are advocating for their votes.

    Government must learn lesson from some European countries about Muslim problem
    in those countries. We can not allow OIC to meddling in our domestic affair. Burmese Government has did right thing about rejecting OIC office in Burma.

  6. Mr. Thein Sein is the first President of Burma who listens to the people. He well represents all of us at least at this time. I hope God will bless every attempt he makes for the Union of Burma.

  7. The separation of State and Religion is a fundamental tenet of a modern democracies.

  8. Excellent move on the part of the Burmese Government. Do not let them get a foot hold in Burma so that they can export their terrorism to the greater region. A pity the rest of the world did not take a leaft out of this governments book for a change.

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