TOKYO: Members of Myanmar’s Muslim minority Rohingya community said yesterday they have been barred from a gathering to welcome democracy hero Aung San Suu Kyi when she visits Japan.
Suu Kyi is expected from Saturday in her first visit to the country for nearly three decades, after time spent as a researcher at Kyoto University in 1985-6.
During her six-day trip, she is expected to have meetings with some of the approximately 10,000 Burmese who live in Japan, as well as with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
But 42-year-old Zaw Min Htut, the leader of some 200 Rohingya Muslims who live in Japan, said his people had been told they were not wanted at events to welcome Suu Kyi.
“Because some Buddhist minorities are against our participation, even though I’ve been in Japan for decades and have helped other Myanmar nationals here, I was told by compatriot event organisers I won’t be able to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said, using a term of respect.
The apparent tensions between groupings within the expatriate Myanmar community underline growing problems between Muslims and Buddhists at home that have cast a shadow over much-vaunted political reforms of recent years.
At least 43 people were killed in March as mosques and Muslim homes were destroyed in central Myanmar, in a wave of communal violence that witnesses say appeared to have been well organised.
The recent disorder was the worst since an eruption of violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year that left scores dead and tens of thousands — mainly Muslims — displaced.
The Rohingya have been described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.
Activists have expressed disappointment that Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who was locked up for 15 years by the former junta, has remained largely silent about several episodes of communal bloodshed.