Monks Defy Authorities

Monks in Burma continue protests against the Rohingya despite an order to halt the demonstrations amid security concerns.
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Monks take part in a protest march against minority Muslim Rohingyas in Mandalay, Sept. 2, 2012.
Monks take part in a protest march against minority Muslim Rohingyas in Mandalay, Sept. 2, 2012.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks in northern Burma’s Mandalay city defied authorities by leading street protests against minority Muslim Rohingyas for the third consecutive day on Tuesday.

They staged a march to back President Thein Sein's suggestion that the Rohingyas be deported even though the authorities had asked organizers of a similar protest on Sunday which attracted several thousands to stop the demonstrations.

Burma does not recognize the Rohingya as one of its ethnic groups, considering them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The U.N. says some 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma and that the group is one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

Some 300 monks, joined by Mandalay residents, gathered in front of Mya Taung Monastery in northern Burma’s city of Mandalay on Tuesday before marching to the downtown Zaycho area around noon.

Monk Ashin Kawmala of the Mahamuni monastery told RFA that Tuesday’s  protest was an important way for the monks, who are not allowed to vote, to act as a political force.

"We monks in Burma do not have the right to vote, and it is not right that [we] do not have the right to do anything at all. None of the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] in the world is larger than the Buddhist community. So we came to demonstrate to express that."

Crowd control concerns

On Sunday, thousands of monks and residents—led by former political prisoner Ashin Wirathu, a monk from Mandalay’s Masoeyein Monastery—marched in support of Thein Sein’s call to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR to deport the Rohingyas.

Sunday’s rally was the biggest protest since the monk-led Saffron Revolution in 2007, which was brutally crushed by the country's then military leaders.  

Wirathu held the protest with permission from the authorities, which later said the demonstrations cannot continue due to crowd control concerns.

Under the protest permit, the authorities did not allow a large number of residents to accompany the monks amid security concerns.

“It is not allowed anymore. They said if we can't stop monks [outside our group] and people who are following our protest, they have to revoke the permission,” he told RFA Tuesday.

He said that since the protests were in support of the president’s stance on the Rohingya minority, revoking the permission for the protests was an indication of how restricted Burma’s political atmosphere is despite nascent reforms.

“Democracy is not fully practiced in our country yet. We can't even support the president freely,” he said, adding that they had followed the rules authorities had laid out for the protest.

"This showed that we do not have the right even to peacefully express our desire.”

He added that he believed the orders to stop the protests had come from local authorities, including the township police chief and governor, rather than from President Thein Sein’s government in Naypyidaw.


This week’s protests came about three months after ethnic violence erupted between the Rohingyas and ethnic Buddhists in western Burma’s Rakhine state that left scores of people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Monks who protested on Tuesday shouted slogans and carried banners reading, "Protect Our Motherland,” “Protect Rakhine State,” and “This is Our Land.”

Thein Sein’s call to deport the Rohingyas, who have lived in Burma for generations, was swiftly rejected by the UNHCR.

No arrests have been made over the protests so far.

This is not the first time the people of Mandalay have staged protests to gain the attention of the authorities.  

In May, as many as 1,000 Mandalay residents gathered for a candlelit protest against severe power shortages, testing for the first time the tolerance of Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government which took over from the military junta in March of last year.

Reported by Kyaw Kyaw Aung and San Oo for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (4)

Anonymous Reader

Dr. Chit swe, if you called yourself as Doctor, you should not comment what you had posted. There may be some Bangalis were accepted as Burmese citizen for the stupid reasons done by U Nu or Nay Win. However, we all Burmese do not considered U Nu or Nay Win as a good leaders for our country. The truth behind is very clear these so called Bangali refugees are not ethnic from Burma. You can not claims that because you live in our country
, even for 100 years can not claim as citizenship. Because this is how Burma citizenship law said. So be respect to the country that you lived in even so you yourself is part of refugee Bangladesh. I am sure even so your name is sound like Burmese, but you are not pure Burmese. Which is why you mean to attack Burmese people. This is how you all Bangali refugees are. Such a pain in........!

Sep 19, 2012 06:21 AM

Dr. Chit Swe

from Buthidaung

Dear Mg Ko, Ask Late U Ne Win & SLORC peoples why did they accept repatriation of so called Bengali(Rohingya)from Bangladesh in 1978& 1992 if they were not Myanmar peoples. Or you want to say they are brainless who ruled Myanmar for 60 years.

Sep 06, 2012 06:38 PM

Mg Ko

from Yangon

Bangali(Rohingya)Muslims are not minority people in Myanmar.Rakhine(Arakan) State do not live Rohingya Muslims. I don't know Rohingya Muslims. I must know Bangali Muslims. Bangali Muslims are very lie history. They are real Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims. Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims are illegal people in Myanmar. Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims are not ethnic in Rakhine(Arakan) State of Myanmar. Many Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims are terrorist or murders. Bangladesh Government should receive back Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims because they are real Bangali. Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims are very bad. Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims killed many ethnic Rakhine(Arakanese) people. So save the Rakhine(Arakanese). Get out Bangali(so-called Rohingya)Muslims.

Sep 05, 2012 01:42 PM

Anonymous Reader

the muslims in rakhine are two categories:
some have been there for years and some iillegal immigrants from next door.

Sep 05, 2012 09:48 AM





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