The Irrawaddy

Nationalists Urge Citizens to Support Govt Response in Rakhine

Nationalists gather in Mandalay to support the government’s response in Rakhine. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

MANDALAY — Nationalists from Mandalay Region gathered on Tuesday and urged the international community not to interfere in the internal affairs of the country, referring to the recent unrest in Rakhine State.

About 3,000 nationalists from Mandalay and the surrounding areas including Kyaukse, Meikhtila, Bagan and Naypyitaw joined the event at Mandalay’s Manawyaman grounds, where the crowd also showed their support for State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.

The crowd held signs that read ‘No Rohingya’ and ‘Save Rakhine,’ while others held photos of the state counselor that said ‘We Stand With You.’

“There are many pressures from the international community toward our country and our government. We are here to let the international community know that we are standing with our government to protect our ethnic people and our country,” said U Aye Paing, a legal advisor of the former Ma Ba Tha association.

He added that he believed international pressures would be relieved if Myanmar citizens came out in support of the leadership.

At the event where nationalists gathered to condemn the violence in Rakhine State and the international community’s response to it, ultranationalist monk U Wirathu was also seen. U Wirathu did not give a speech to the crowd, however, he wrote on his Facebook page that he was attending the event to show that “there are no Rohingya in the country,” referring to the fact that the self-identifying Rohingya are not granted citizenship by the government and are commonly referred to as interlopers from Bangladesh despite having lived in the country for generations.

According to the event organizers, the regional government gave permission for the gathering but on numerous conditions including that attendees not use the words ‘Rohingya,’ ‘Bengali,’ ‘Kofi Annan,’ or ‘Yanghee Lee.’

Apart from voicing support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government, those speaking at the event slammed her and her government for oppressing nationalists, referring to the banning of Ma Ba Tha as an organization and the recent arrest of nationalist monks in Mandalay.

The nationalists also voiced their disagreement with suggestions set out by Kofi Annan’s Rakhine State Advisory Commission and the international community.

“We strongly disagree with amending the 1982 Citizenship Act, which the commission recommended,” said lawyer U Win Kyi in his speech.

The speakers also warned the media not to publish fake news or news biased toward the Muslim community.

“There are many Buddhists and Hindus suffering in [Rakhine] State. But we do not see that in the news, only the suffering of Muslims,” said U Myo Chit, another nationalist speaker.

Since violence broke out in Rakhine State on Aug. 25, some 430,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh, while some 30,000 Arakanese and Hindus have fled to other areas within the state.