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Arakan Buddhists rally against the return of Muslim refugees

Buddhist monks lead a 600-strong demonstration against Rohingya refugees on 22 October 2017. (PHOTO: DVB)

Led by Buddhist monks and hardline nationalists, a rally was staged in the Arakan state capital of Sittwe on Sunday, with protesters demanding the Burmese government refuse to repatriate Muslim refugees who fled recently to Bangladesh.

“What I want to tell the government is that there are many terrorists among the Bengalis [self-identifying Rohingyas] who fled to Bangladesh,” said Aung Htay, one of the leaders of the 600-strong demonstration. “If they are included in the repatriation programme, we worry about the potential for a recurrence of conflict. The [Arakanese Buddhist] public cannot accept any such repatriation process. That’s why we are protesting.”

Another demonstration leader, monk U Dhamika, said, “We do not want to coexist with those people.”

Meanwhile, according to a Reuters report on Sunday citing anonymous Burmese officials, returning refugees are unlikely to be able to reclaim their land, and may find their crops have been harvested and sold by the government.

Up to 600,000 people – mostly self-identifying Rohingya families but also including some 30,000 non-Muslims – fled military clearance operations and reprisals following a deadly 25 August attack by Rohingya militants on Burmese security posts.