NAYPYIDAW - Burmese President Thein Sein has blocked the opening of an office of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the country, amid massive protests by Buddhist monks against the world's largest Muslim grouping.
"The president will not allow an OIC office because it is not in accordance with the people's desires," an official from the president's office told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The move followed massive protests by Buddhist monks against plans by the Muslim body to open a liaison office in the western state of Rakhine.
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Last week, the OIC said that it had obtained the green light from the Burmese government to open an office in the country.
It came after a delegation from the Muslim group visited Rakhine state last month, which was the scene of deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and ethnic-Bengali Muslims, known as Rohingyas.
But the plans to open an OIC office in Burma have triggered massive protests by Buddhist monks.
"We cannot accept any OIC office here," Oattamathara, a monk leading a mass protest in the city of Mandalay, said.
"Not a temporary office and not a permanent office."
Tensions have been high in Burma since last June when thousands of Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee their homes after ethnic violence rocked the western state of Rakhine.
Human rights groups have accused Burmese police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingyas in the wake of the riots.
Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of targeting Rohingya Muslims with killing, rape and arrest following the unrest.
Hundreds of Rohingya men and boys have been rounded up and remain incommunicado in the western region of the country, the group said.
Thousands of monks marched on Monday to denounce plans to open an OIC office in the country.
"The OIC is only for Bengalis, not for us," said monk Pyin Nyar Nanda at one of the rallies, Reuters.
The monks carried placards with the words "get out OIC", and "no OIC", saying they would hold demonstrations until the government agreed to their demands.
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Burma is about 90 percent Buddhist and the majority are ethnically Burman, but the remaining people are a diverse group of over 100 ethnic and religious minorities.Treating Buddhism as the state de facto religion, the Buddhist Burman majority was singled out as the trustworthy pillar of national identity.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net