Hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside of the U.S. embassy in Myanmar Thursday over its use of the term Rohingya to describe the country's ethnic Muslim minority group.
The protesters, joined by some Buddhist monks, are calling on the group be referred to as 'Bengalis,' saying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, many of the Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations.
The protest began after the U.S. Embassy used the term Rohingya in a statement of concern following the drowning of dozens of people after their boat capsized off the coast of Rakhine state.
"Normally, we would call them what they ask to be called," said U.S. Ambassador Scott Marciel in comments to VOA's Burma's service. "It is not political decision, just normal practice."
The Myanmar government does not officially recognized the Rohingya as an ethnic group denying them basic rights and citizenship.
They are unable to travel freely in Myanmar and cannot marry or have children without official permission.
Rohingya are also largely barred from higher education and face the constant threat of violence as Buddhist extremism gains traction.
Some 120,000 Rohingya live in squalid displacement camps after being forced to flee their homes after violence erupted in Rakhine state between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012
Thousands more have fled persecution and poverty in the country.
Earlier this month, the United Nations gave Myanmar's incoming civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) 100 days to improve living conditions for the Rohingya community.