Anti-Rohingya Demonstrators to Be Charged With Unlawful Protest

By Zue Zue 29 April 2016

RANGOON 一 A group of Burmese nationalists, including some monks from the ultra-conservative Buddhist association Ma Ba Tha, will be charged with protesting without permission after they picketed outside the US Embassy in Rangoon on Thursday against the American mission’s use of the word “Rohingya.”

Hundreds of protesters assembled to condemn the US Embassy’s use of the word in an April 20 statement offering condolences and expressing concern after 18 internally displaced Rohingya Muslims died when their boat capsized near Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State. One of the protesters’ rallying cries was, “There are no Rohingya in Burma.”

Zaw Win, deputy police chief for Kamayut Township, told The Irrawaddy that the protesters had violated the law governing the right to assembly by not getting permission first.

The police denied the group permission to protest in front of the US Embassy, and offered a football field in Bahan Township as an alternative protest site. The group instead gathered first in front of Rangoon University, before marching to the nearby US Embassy anyway.

“They protested in areas where they did not have permission to do so,” said Zaw Win. “We will take action on this.”

“They will use the law to deal with us,” protester Noung Daw Lay said. “But we will use the law to fight back too.”

The term Rohingya, while widely accepted internationally, is highly contentious within Burma, where the Muslims minority is not accepted as one of 135 official ethnic groups recognized by a 1982 Citizenship Law. The previous government, and Thursday’s protestors, referred to the group as “Bengali,” implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which borders western Arakan State. Many identifying as Rohingya trace familial roots to a life in Burma for generations.

The recently installed National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s position on the term remains unclear.