Protests greet pan-Muslim body in unrest-hit Myanmar

Protests greet pan-Muslim body in unrest-hit Myanmar
Buddhist monks carry signs during a demonstration against a visit by members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Sittwe on November 15, 2013.

YANGON - Myanmar Buddhist monks led rallies against the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Friday as delegates from the Muslim body toured western Rakhine state, where religious violence has torn communities asunder.

The delegation from the world's top Islamic body is in the country to discuss the response to several bouts of anti-Muslim violence that have left some 250 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

But the group is treated with deep suspicion by Buddhists in Rakhine, where communities are now almost completely segregated on religious grounds after last year's unrest, with Muslims making up the vast majority of the 140,000 people displaced.

"No OIC in Rakhine land, respect our sovereignty," one protesting monk told AFP as hundreds of demonstrators converged on the airport in the state capital Sittwe early Friday.

The delegation met local officials inside the airport on Friday before visiting remote areas by helicopter, an official told AFP.

Myanmar remains tense after eruptions of religious unrest across the country that have cast a shadow over much-lauded reforms and caused concerns among the international community.

The OIC group, which includes the organisation's chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, met the Myanmar vice president in the capital Naypyidaw on Thursday, accompanied by the ambassadors from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

They discussed the "peace and stability of Rakhine State and rehabilitation" in the region, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar.

In Yangon on Friday rallies against the OIC were led by hundreds of maroon-clad Buddhist monks, a sight formerly associated with brutally-suppressed peaceful rallies for democracy in 2007 known as the Saffron Revolution.

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