The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed “regret” over a Burmese government decision not to allow the opening of an OIC liaison office in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.
“We regret this decision because the office that we intended to open was purely for humanitarian purposes for the benefit of all those affected by the violence and without discrimination,” Talal Daous, director of the Muslim Minority Department within OIC, told IRIN from Jeddah.
The OIC, an association of 56 Islamic states promoting Muslim solidarity in economic, social, and political affairs, based in Saudi Arabia, has requested an official explanation.
Daous’s comments come a day after the Myanmar government announced that “the opening of the OIC office will not be allowed as it is contradictory to the aspirations of the people.”
Burmese President Thein Sein has set four criteria - national integrity, national interest, sovereignty and environment - for bilateral or international memorandums of understanding to be signed by the government, Myanmar’s semi-official newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported.
Thousands of monks took to the streets of Yangon and Mandalay against the office’s opening.
Sectarian tension has been running high in Rakhine State following communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya - an ethnic, linguistic and Muslim minority - which left dozens dead and displaced tens of thousands in June.
According to aid workers, nearly 75,000 people are currently in temporary camps and shelters in Rakhine where they face deteriorating living conditions.
Under Burmese law, the Rohingya are de jure stateless. There are an estimated 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar and human rights groups say they have long faced persecution and discrimination. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
In September, an OIC delegation visited Rakhine State and announced that it would support the Rohingya Muslims gain their legitimate rights as citizens.
At the time, OIC called on the Burmese government to launch a rehabilitation and reconciliation process in the region; endeavour to reintegrate the two segregated communities; resettle the displaced in new homes; and take measures for long-term regional economic development.