News / Asia

Burma's President Tells VOA He Will Open Schools for Rohingya

Burmese President Thein Sein says his government will open schools to improve the education of minority Rohingya Muslims who accuse the majority Buddhist state of persecuting them.

In an exclusive interview with VOA Burmese Service chief Than Lwin Htun in Naypyidaw, Thein Sein called education an important tool to help different communities live in harmony and respect human rights.

He said Bengalis - his term for the Rohingya - have only religious schools and lack what he called "proper education."

"So we will open schools for them and give them modern education," he said. "And once they become educated, they will be more thoughtful and can decide what is right and what is wrong."

Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape religious violence, sit in a boat after being intercepted crossing the Naf River by Bangladeshi border authorities in Taknaf, Bangladesh, June 13, 2012.Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape religious violence, sit in a boat after being intercepted crossing the Naf River by Bangladeshi border authorities in Taknaf, Bangladesh, June 13, 2012.
x
Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape religious violence, sit in a boat after being intercepted crossing the Naf River by Bangladeshi border authorities in Taknaf, Bangladesh, June 13, 2012.
Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape religious violence, sit in a boat after being intercepted crossing the Naf River by Bangladeshi border authorities in Taknaf, Bangladesh, June 13, 2012.
The Burmese government refuses to recognize the country's estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group and denies them citizenship. Many Burmese consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Mabrur Ahmed, the cofounder and director of Restless Beings, a British-based rights group following the Rohingya situation, welcomed the Burmese president’s school pledge but warned of segregation.

“I don’t think it’s productive for a community where there’s going to be two ethnicities living side by side and they have separate schools for each set of children. But at the same time, at the moment, the Rohingya children are not receiving any education, or very limited education up to age seven, so to have access to more education is obviously a good thing,” he said.

Related video report by Daniel Schearf

Ahmed also said the Rohingya should be granted citizenship. He said without this, the Muslim group and other unrecognized ethnic minorities are not able to own land, get married or have children without state permission.

“Generally, the whole law needs to be overlooked [reviewed] where everyone has equal rights and there isn’t this separation of ‘pure breed’ Burmese and ethnic minority Burmese and hereditary Burmese,” he said.

Ahmed said Burma’s transition from a military-led to a semi-democratic civilian-led government is a “good, positive” step, and the president’s interview is a further sign of change.

Monday's interview is the first to be granted to VOA by a Burmese head of state. Burma's previous military-led administration, in which Mr. Thein Sein served as prime minister, banned VOA and accused it of spreading lies.

He also reiterated Burma's opposition to any foreign investigation of recent deadly sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine. The Saudi-based Organization for Islamic Cooperation has called for such an investigation of the violence, which its members view as a case of religious persecution against the Rohingya.

President Thein Sein said the government is giving assistance to the victims and has asked an "independent" Burmese Human Rights Commission to investigate the unrest, which erupted in May and killed 77 people from the Rohingya and Buddhist communities. He said there is "no need" for a foreign commission to investigate the violence as an international issue.
Additional reporting by Kate Woodsome.

Editors Note: An earlier version of this story in English had President Thein Sein saying it is necessary to modify Burma's 1982 Citizenship Law. In a review of the Burmese translation of his remarks, he actually said the law should be re-implemented. VOA regrets the error.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Libya from: Libya
August 14, 2012 12:44 PM
Burma is hidding a herrific crime committed agaist tousands of armless peaceful muslims.
What a shame on Muslim countries.
If you do not hide anything let International inverstigation take place.
Shame on Muslim countries
In Response

by: Sultan from: Bangladesh
September 05, 2012 3:41 AM
President Thein Sein is democratically hiding crimes committed against to the thousands of Rohingya Muslims. On the other hand, His regional law (mainly Arakan State authority) instructs the concerned officials to finish Rohingya from Arakan State. But Allah will never finish Rohingya by the human pressure is for sure. The local officials always make a negative report and send to the upper level and foreign countries mentioning that the Rohingya people are culprit. The Rohingya people cannot respond anything that they are innocent because they have no right to write and no Rohingya in any government department.

It is good plan that President Thein Sein will open schools for Rohingya Muslims but it is extremely needed to appoint Rohingya teachers too. If no Rohingya teacher enough, he may invite those Rohingya teachers who are in abroad for the time being. A Rohingya led Education Department should also be needed to set as separate from Rakhine one.

Sultan
In Response

by: Iftikhar Ahmad from: London
August 15, 2012 11:06 AM
Minority Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

The right to education in one’s own comfort zone is a fundamental and inalienable human right that should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background. Schools do not belong to state, they belong to parents. It is the parents’ choice to have faith schools for their children. Migrant Muslims are not economic slaves. They are part and parcel of British society with their own cultures, languages and faith. Migrant Muslims need to preserve and transmit their cultural, linguistic and spiritual identities; otherwise, they will be lost in the western jungle. Learning Arabic, Urdu and other community languages do not deter people from integrating. It helps them integrate. British schooling is at war with Migrant Muslims learning Arabic, Urdu and other community languages. Multilingualism should be celebrated because it is an asset but British education regards it as a proble
     

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs