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Protests across Asia over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingyas

Thousands of people took to the streets across Asia to denounce Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority as some 290,000 of them have fled to Bangladesh to escape the ongoing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 25.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence, according to an UN estimate. Political and Islamic groups, along with other civil society organisations, joined protests in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to urge Myanmar to “stop committing genocide” and take back those who have sought refuge elsewhere, CNN reported.

Some 290,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape the ongoing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine since August 25, the UN office here said on Saturday.

The violence erupted following an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group on police and military posts in Rakhine, leading to a violent offensive by the Myanmar Army.

Protesters criticised Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and called for her Nobel Prize to be withdrawn. Protests also took place in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan.

The government of Myanmar blames terrorists for starting the violence. Marchers in Dhaka expressed their outrage at reports of abuse coming from Myanmar, the report said.

“I’ve joined the rally to express my solidarity with the Rohingya people,” activist Mahfuza Haque Neela told CNN. “The Rohingya people, including women and children, are being killed … women are being raped.”

The rally was partly organised by protest group Gonojagoron Mancha, whose leaders said they plan to besiege Myanmar’s embassy in Dhaka on Monday if the government does not take action.

Over a thousand Muslim devotees belonging to the organisation Islamic Movement Bangladesh joined a rally in the capital’s Paltan area. The movement’s leaders demanded the immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers in Rakhine and the implementation of the recommendations made by a commission led by former UN head Kofi Annan.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party urged the country’s government to “force Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas”.

Dhaka’s Buddhist community also protested Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingyas. Security was beefed up around Buddhist temples and other institutions in Dhaka and elsewhere.

About 200 protesters rallied outside Myanmar’s embassy in Malaysia on Friday urging Kuala Lumpur to sever diplomatic ties with Yangon. The protest was led by the youth wing of the predominantly Muslim Malaysia’s ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation, after Friday prayers.

Thousands of people in Pakistan from all walks of life took to the streets in major cities on Friday to condemn the crackdown on Rohingyas. In Karachi, more than 2,000 people demonstrated outside the Karachi Press Club, media reports said.

In Indonesia, hundreds of protesters gathered near the famous Borobudur temple in Central Java, and hundreds more outside the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu criticised Suu Kyi in an open letter posted on Twitter. “I am … breaking my vow of silence on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya,” Tutu wrote.

“What some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted — and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread … If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”

Suu Kyi said her government is trying to help “everybody who is of our country, whether or not they are our citizens”.

In a statement on Friday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley urged Myanmar to implement the Annan commission’s recommendations.

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