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Friday, 13 October 2017 08:58

Myanmar takes first step to ease Buddhist-Muslim tension

YANGON - Myanmar on Tuesday launched its first bid to improve relations between Buddhists and Muslims since an eruption of deadly violence in August inflamed communal tension and triggered an exodus of some 520,000 Muslims to Bangladesh.


Rohingya Muslims are still fleeing, more than six weeks after Rohingya insurgents attacked security forces in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The United Nations has denounced a ferocious military crackdown in response to the attacks as ethnic cleansing aimed at driving out Rohingya.

A new surge of refugees has entered Bangladesh in recent days, including about 11,000 on Monday. Some have told of increasing hunger in Rakhine as well as of more mob attacks on Muslim villagers.

Despite growing international condemnation of the refugee crisis, the military campaign is due to the surge of Buddhist nationalism.

The party of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi took the first step toward trying to ease animosity with inter-faith prayers at a stadium in the biggest city of Yangon, with Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others.

Thousands of people packed the stands of the stadium, with Buddhist monks, Hindus, Christian nuns and Muslim men listening to religious leaders who took turns to appeal for friendship.

The Rohingya had pinned hopes for change on Suu Kyi’s party but it has been wary of Buddhist nationalist pressure. Her party did not field a single Muslim candidate in the 2015 election that it swept.

Rohingya are not classified as an indigenous minority in Myanmar and are denied citizenship under a law that links nationality to ethnicity.

Regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, they face restrictions and discrimination and are derided by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in Rakhine, and by much of the wider population.

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

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