MANDALAY—Thousands of protesters including hundreds of monks are holding a two-day march in support of the president’s proposal to deport the Rohingya Muslim minority group.
The rally began in Mandalay on Sunday and was scheduled to continue until Tuesday, although the local authorities called an end to the protests on Monday. It is believed that the cancellation is due to the unexpectedly large turnout.
The protest demonstrates the deep resentment felt against the Rohingya minority after June violence with ethnic Arakanese (Rakhine) Buddhists left 80 people dead and tens of thousands displaced. Monks held a banner saying, “Save your motherland Myanmar by supporting the president.”
President Thein Sein suggested in July that Burma sends all Rohingya to any country willing to take them, a proposal quickly opposed by the UN refugee agency.
Despite only 100 residents of Mandalay being officially allowed to protest, the city’s security forces stood by and allowed thousands to march without hindrance. The protest was originally permitted to take place from 10 am to 11 am for the three days, yet there was also a second march from 1 pm to 2 pm on Sunday.
By contrast, repeated attempts by market traders in recent days to protest strict new regulations have been repeated turned down by the local authorities.
U Wirathu, a prominent monk of the city’s Ma Soe Yein Monastery, is leading the demonstration. “This protest is to support the president’s stand on the Rohingya issue,” he said.
Lay protesters are wearing T-shirts with a photo of Thein Sein and a “tick” on the front and a picture of UN human rights envoy Tomás Ojea Quintana crossed out on the back. Demonstrators are complaining about international interference in the Arakan sectarian violence, particularly from the UN.
Burma considers the Rohingya to be illegal migrants from Bangladesh but Bangladesh also rejects them, rendering them stateless. The UN estimates that 800,000 Rohingya live in Burma and considers them one of the world’s most persecuted groups.
This report has been updated since the original version was published.