Friday, August 18, 2017

Nationalists demand US ambassador out

Nationalist protestors have again urged the government to denounce the existence of the Rohingya identity in Myanmar and are now calling on the US ambassador to be sent home.

Monks participate in the protest in the rain yesterday.(Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar Times)Monks participate in the protest in the rain yesterday.(Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar Times)

Shouting “No Rohingya in Myanmar”, with some donning headbands carrying the same slogan and others wearing nationalist T-shirts emblazoned with “969” after a prominent Buddhist nationalist movement, the protestors made their way from the Bo Sein Mann grounds to the Kyaikkasan compound yesterday.

The authorities had granted permission for the protest which coincided with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Nay Pyi Taw.

Nationalists have been protesting since the US embassy issued a statement last month that included the term “Rohingya”. Some Muslims in Rakhine State self-identify as Rohingya, though they are referred to as Bengalis by those who characterise them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

After repeated calls on both the US and Myanmar governments to denounce the usage of the term, nationalists yesterday added the demand that recently appointed US ambassador Scot Marciel be evicted from the country. The protesters said he had violated diplomatic relations by intervening in internal affairs.

Around 100 monks and nationalists joined yesterday’s rally at Bo Sein Hman grounds in Bahan township, where they also demanded the government start a citizenship scrutiny process according to the 1982 Citizenship Law.

“Former president U Thein Sein already announced there are no Rohingya in our country. Now the NLD government has the duty to clarify the usage of the term ‘Rohingya’,” said U Pyin Nyein Da, a Buddhist monk.

He asked why the National League for Democracy government has hesitated to take action and stayed silent on the issue despite the previous government’s announcement that “Rohingya” don’t exist (see related story page 4). He accused the NLD of disloyalty.

Nationalist monks and other supporters held their speeches in the rain, warning the government that they would not tolerate anything that could destroy the country or Buddhist religion.

One of the campaign organisers, U Aye Paing who is a lawyer, said it would be unacceptable for the government to try to change the 1982 citizenship law and that the military needs to defend the country against the influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“We keep calling on the government to scrutinise Bengalis who entered the country illegally. National security is under threat because of the growing Bengali population. It is very important that the military is strong to protect the border,” said U Aye Paing.

Organisers said they aim to hold demonstrations around the country. Protests have already taken place in Mandalay, Taunggyi and Pathein.