Burma Correspondent: Hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Burma Thursday following its use of the term Rohingya to describe the country’s ethnic Muslim minority group.
The protesters in cooperation of some Buddhist monks, are calling on the group be mentioned to as ‘Bengalis,’ saying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, all of the Rohingya have lived in Burma for centuries.
The protestors started the demonstration after the U.S. Embassy used the word Rohingya in a statement of concern following the drowning of dozens of people after their boat capsized off the coast of Rakhine state.
“Normally, we would call them what they ask to be called,” said the U.S. Ambassador Scott Marciel in comments to VOA’s Burma’s service. “It is not political decision, just normal practice.”
The Burmese government does not officially recognized the Rohingya as an ethnic group denying their basic rights and citizenship despite their existence in Burma for centuries.
Protestors demonstrated outside the U.S Embassy, Burma holding banners against it’s use of the word “Rohingya” on April 28, 2016.
Rohingya are unable to travel freely in Burma and cannot marry or have children without government permission. They are also widely banned from higher education and face the constant threat of violence as Buddhist extremism gains traction.
Some 120,000 Rohingya live in squalid displacement camps after being forced to flee their homes after the violence erupted in Rakhine state between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012. Thousands more have fled persecution and poverty in the country.
Prior to this month, the UN gave Burma’s incoming civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD 100 days to improve living conditions for the Rohingya community.