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No Need for OIC Intervention, Burma Govt Says

Buddhist monks
in Mandalay protest last year against an attempt by the Organization of Islamic
Cooperation to open an office in Burma. (Photo: Man Thar Lay / The Irrawaddy

Irrawaddy News:
April 19, 2013

government has rejected calls for an international inquiry into recent waves of
anti-Muslim violence, following media reports that the world’s top Islamic body
would request to send a delegation to the country to discuss the unrest.

“In my opinion,
recent conflicts inside the country are [Burma’s] internal affairs,” government
spokesman Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, adding that the government
had not yet received a formal request for access from the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Ye Htut, who is
also Burma’s deputy minister of information, said the government had taken good
care to handle religious tension and violence against Muslims in the
Buddhist-majority nation.

“So I believe
there is no reason for an international organization to intervene,” he said.

The OIC has
urged Burmese authorities to allow a ministerial delegation from the Islamic
body to visit Burma and discuss ongoing religious tensions that have pitted
Buddhists against Muslims there, AFP reported on Monday.

OIC chief
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told the news agency that violence against minority
Rohingya Muslims last year in western Burma and rioting-related deaths of
dozens of Muslims last month in central Burma was “unacceptable.”

In a statement
released after an OIC meeting in Saudi Arabia, the pan-Islamic body also urged
the UN Human Rights Commission to undertake a fact-finding mission in the
country related to the violence.

But Ye Htut said
the OIC had not made any formal moves for access to Burma.

“We only know
about the OIC’s decision at their meeting [to request access] from the
international media,” he said. “They still haven’t sent us a formal request.”

He added that
national, state and divisional governments were investigating the unrest and taking
action against those who had broken the law.

According to
government reports, 43 people were killed last month during three days of
clashes in the central Burma town of Meikhtila, while 86 people were injured
and 1,355 houses, shops and buildings were destroyed.

Last week, the
Muslim owners of a gold shop were sentenced to more than 10 years in prison
after an altercation at their shop with a Buddhist customer sparked rioting in
the town.

Nearly 13,000
people, mostly Muslims, were displaced in the ensuing violence, which spread to
11 townships in Mandalay and Pegu divisions, according to the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Ye Htut said the
government was arranging to relocate internally displaced persons.

Buddhists monks in eight townships of Magwe Division, central Burma, sent a
letter to the President’s Office on Monday saying they believed OIC
intervention was unnecessary.

The leading
monks said the Meikhtila conflict was not racially or religiously motivated,
adding that the situation had already settled.

Kawanedaw Batha,
a prominent monk in Magwe’s Pakokku Township, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday
that he hoped the government would listen to the public’s desires and prevent
the OIC from sending a delegation or opening an office in the country.

The Islamic
organization’s attempt last year to open an office in Burma following the
clashes in Arakan State was also met with widespread criticism by Buddhist
monks and the Burmese public.