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OIC Delegation Greeted by Protests in Burma

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Buddhist monks hold banners reading "OIC Get Out" as they protest against the arrival of a delegation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, at the airport in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 13, 2013.

Buddhist monks hold banners reading "OIC Get Out" as they protest against the arrival of a delegation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, at the airport in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 13, 2013.

A delegation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been greeted with protests in Burma.

The group, including ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Djubouti arrived Wednesday to assess the situation of Burma's minority Muslim community, which has been involved in clashes with Buddhists in western Rakhine State.

Hundreds of Buddhists, including dozens of monks, demonstrated outside the Rangoon airport, accusing the OIC of being biased in favor of the country's minority Muslim community. The protest took place peacefully.

A spokesman for Burmese President Thein Sein, Ye Htut, told VOA's Burmese service the visit will have a very narrow focus.

"The visit is not about, as the news is spreading out, opening an OIC branch office in Burma and recognizing "Bengalis" as an ethnic nationality under the name of "Rohingya". We have arranged this visit for them to simply witness the situation of peace and stability and reconstruction in Rakhine State."

He was referring to a controversy over the name of Muslims in Rakhine State. The government calls them "Bengali" because most came from neighboring Bangladesh several generations ago. But the local Muslims want to be identified as a specific ethnic minority called Rohingya.

Violence last year between Muslims and Buddhists left more than 200 dead and more than 100,000 homeless, mostly from the minority Rohingya community.

Ye Htut says the OIC delegation will meet with Burmese officials starting Thursday, but they will not hold talks with President Thein Sein. The OIC told VOA last week that its delegation would meet with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But her National League for Democracy says no such meeting will take place.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.)

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