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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid