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NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar’s president blocked a world Islamic body from opening an office in the country, an official said yesterday, bowing to rallies against its efforts to help Muslims in unrest-hit Rakhine state.
“The president will not allow an OIC office because it is not in accordance with the people’s desires,” said an official from Myanmar leader Thein Sein’s office, after thousands of monks held the latest protests against the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in two major cities yesterday.
The official, who asked not to be named, declined to comment on an agreement signed with the OIC, the top world Muslim body, which confirmed last week that it had obtained the green light to open an office in the country.
Around 3,000 maroon-robed clerics, some shouting and holding banners reading “No OIC”, marched through the country’s commercial hub Yangon, according to a photographer.
Thousands more protested in the second-largest city Mandalay, with another demonstration in the town of Pakokku in Magway region in central Myanmar, according to organisers.
“We cannot accept any OIC office here,” Oattamathara, a monk leading the Mandalay protest, said.
Sectarian tensions are running high following Buddhist-Rohingya clashes in June in western Rakhine which left dozens of people dead and forced thousands to seek refuge in temporary shelters.
Monks were at the vanguard of a 2007 pro-democracy uprising that was brutally crushed by the former junta.