Wirathu Joins Arakanese Protest Against Census

human rights, Muslim, Buddhist, Rohingya, racism, religious violence, UNFPA, UN, Myanmar, 969, Wirathu SEO title: Nationalist Monk Joins Protest in West Myanmar Against Census

U Wirathu is received by the Arakanese community in Ponnagyun Township last week. (Photo: virathu.com)

RANGOON — Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu visited strife-torn Arakan State and joined large protests against the upcoming census over the weekend. Local Arakanese Buddhists oppose the census because it will allow the stateless Rohingya minority to register their ethnic identity as they wish.

On Sunday, protests against the UN-supported census where held in nine townships in Arakan State.

U Wirathu, who heads the controversial 969 movement, which is accused of spreading hate speech against Muslims, told The Irrawaddy he participated in order to voice support for the protests.

“I joined the protest in Myebon [Township] and encouraged protesters because there is no such Rohingya name in our country,” he claimed. “But they are trying to create and have this this name—it is not fair.”

Arakanese politicians and many among the Buddhist community have expressed anger over the fact that the census offers the Muslim minority the opportunity to choose an ethnicity as they wish, in accordance with international census standards.

Arakanese MPs said they opposed these standards for collecting census data as it seems to contradict the government position that there is no Rohingya group in Burma.

“It’s time they make a clear statement about whether this government will use the Rohingya name or not in the census list, because otherwise there will be more protest in our region,” said Pe Than, a MP with the recently formed Arakan National Party.

He said the Arakanese community would decide to boycott the census if their grievances are not addressed, adding that the Muslim minority should only be registered under the name “Bengalis.”

Nyo Aye, an Arakanese women’s activist who helped organize Sunday’s protest, also said the Arakanese community would reject the census unless its data collection methodology is changed. “If there is no response from the government … we are ready to boycott the census,” she said.

The census, organized with the help of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), will start at the end of March and requires respondents to select their ethnicity and religion. They can choose an ethnicity from a classification list of 135 minorities drawn up in the 1982 Citizenship Law by the then-military government.

The Rohingya are omitted from the list and set apart as a group without citizenship called “Bengalis,” to suggest most are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Rohingya Muslims claim nonetheless, that they have lived in northern Arakan State for generations.

The UNFPA has said that respondents who do not identify with one of the 135 ethnicities can describe themselves as “other” and orally report their desired ethnic affiliations to the enumerator. These responses would later be sub-coded during data processing. This option would allow Rohingyas to register their ethnic identity as they wish.

Minister of Immigration and Population Khin Ye reportedly told the Arakanese MPs that he could not change the census procedures, but assured them that it would not change the government’s position regarding the Rohingyas.

Government data from 2010 put Arakan State’s population at about 3.34 million people, of which the Muslim population accounts for 29 percent.

Many local Arakanese Buddhists worry that government recognition of the Rohingya population would precede an eventual shift in demographics in Arakan State, and with that a loss of political power and cultural identity.

U Wirathu said he first arrived in the state capital Sittwe on March 10 and has since held a number of sermons for the Arakanese Buddhists in Kyauktaw and Pauktaw, Ponnagyun townships. The monk said he would give another sermon in Thandwe town in southern Arakan on Monday night.

Thandwe was the scene of the most recent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence, in October. At the time, the local Kaman Muslims—who, unlike the Rohingyas, are citizens of Burma—have complained that the violence was whipped up by visiting 969 monks.

U Wirathu said he had been welcomed by the Arakanese Buddhist community, adding that he instructed them during his sermons to become more media-savvy when expressing their views on the inter-communal conflict with the Rohingyas.

“I told them they need more media training, so, they will know how to handle the media. I even told them how media plays an important role,” the Mandalay-based monk said. Asked if his anti-Muslim sermons risks inflaming tensions in the volatile region, Wirathu said, “Where ever I go, there has been no problem. I tell people to solve conflict within the rule of law.”

4 Responses to Wirathu Joins Arakanese Protest Against Census

  1. This guy is racist and a fake monk. Buddhist monks are peace lovers. This guy is trying to spread hatred among citizens. Further he is supported by the military strong man Than Shwe.
    President Thein Sein is also silent. Why? I doubt if Burma is really heading towards genuin Democracy.

  2. Burma has accepted many Illegal Bengalis in the past,because of UN request.
    We shared our food,but Bengalis doesn’t want to stay under the same roof.
    It is very clear that Burma should accept Illegal Bengalis or not.??!!

  3. How so call Arakanese Buddhist becoming National of Burma ( Myanmar ) in fact they are the decendant of the peoples tholse run away from Arakan at the time of Bowdawphayar attacked Arakan, and now staying in Bangladesh Kayuchaung and Tacknaff area. At present they are called Bangali Buddhist in Bangladesh. No reasons to get Myanmar citizenship for them, but these peoples has the political power in Arakan, so they are easy to get Burma ( Myanmar ) ID cards. Please open your eyes and study properly who all are citizens and who all are not. Due to religion and faith should not become discrimination. Internaional community is looking Burma ( Myanmar ) every hours. Do not cheat yourself. Censors is nothing merely countin population figures, it should not legalally binmding for citizenship.

  4. A minority of Rakhine, of whom most had felt bed experience in childhood while they grew up in Bangladesh s Chittagone and other areas where their ant sisters migrated to after 1750 the Burmese took Rakhine. Partly successful to stir up a very un democratic process in Rakhine since June 2012,- near at all events hurt and damage also their own Rakhine peoples normal live, education job and earning.
    Even partly successful to high jack many parts of Myanmar, with the well know now negative effect to image, local & foreign investment in some areas, it is all Myanmar which pays the price.
    So be able to change Myanmar and Burmese – dictate them the ” small ” Rakhine matter compared to the whole country. These Rakhine around Dr Aye Maung will be not able to change the whole world and International standards just for the Rakhine cause only.
    Let alone that over 500.000 Rakhine are migrants in Malaysia, more in Thailand and the rest of the world,– how many you know live in Yangon,— of course all these are the Strong, the Bright, the Educated, the Independent Rakhine. Guess what is all only left behind in Northern Rakhine it self, just the opposite and the simple people. Rakhine are run aways to the East as they say by them self – here is the problem and not with the Bengalis.
    Only when you count Bengalis and count them as Rohingas you will know about how many really you talk, about how many you really you need to find solution , about how many you might need to find a place somewhere in the world and bring peace to Northern Rakhine.
    If you do not count you will stay in the darkas a blind man tries to lead Rakhine out of a bumpy road,” Mission Impossible or Short sighted Dr Aye Maung “. Why not by force and order exchange as first step 500.000 Rakhine from Malaysia back to Myebon, etc and 500.000 Bengalis send to Malaysia s “Muslim Home” they will love it. The problem your Rakhine people will hate it and you….
    Man in Monk Rope – Wirathu in Rakhine is as useless as a Thyroid on a peoples neck,- as he said “…. teach to use the media, – so media clown Wirathu is very far from Buddhism – but a great – NOT Good,- politician… that is all …peace and development is possible through understanding and Dr Mra stated in last weeks New Light of Myanmar anyhow that the Rakhine apart of a short time never liked the Northern part even not in the 15th century, maybe a hint that Muslims lived there first and already – try to prove the opposite Dr Mra did not.

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