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

Burma’s President: Discrimination Not Cause of Rohingya Unresti
|| 0:00:00
X
Daniel Schearf
August 24, 2012 8:30 PM
Sectarian tensions are simmering in Burma’s west, after violence between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya left 88 people dead and thousands homeless. The Rohingya, one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, have few rights in Burma. But in an exclusive interview with VOA, Burma’s President, Thein Sein, insisted discrimination is not to blame for the tensions. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Bangkok.]]
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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid