Myanmar monks lead protest decrying U.N. envoy’s visit

A group of Myanmar Buddhist monks hold a banner and shout slogans during a protest rally against the visit by the members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Yangon, Myanmar, November, 2013

imageLocation of the Rohingya (Arakan)

(Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters led by Buddhist monks rallied in Myanmar on Friday to denounce a visit by a human rights envoy of the United Nations, which has urged the government to grant citizenship to persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

Crowds roared and pumped their fists in the air as Ashin Wirathu, a extremist monk known for railing against Muslims, delivered an impassioned speech in Yangon attacking the U.N. and its Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, who is concluding a 10-day visit.

The scenes demonstrate a surge in Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar, where monks carry considerable influence and were revered for their moral integrity during the five decades when the country was under brutal and corrupt military rule.

ChittagongHillTractsLocation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where Buddhists are increasingly being encroached upon, due to the growing population of Bangladesh

Protests were outlawed until the civilian-led government that took office in 2011 lifted the ban. But that has given rise to a Buddhist movement that has taken aim at Muslims, who make up about 5 percent of Myanmar’s population of 53 million…

The Rohingya are ethnically related to the Muslims of Bangladesh, who refuse to take them in. In addition, there are steady occurrences of offences against the tiny number of Buddhists in Bangladesh, who are ethnically related to those in Myanmar.

Another worry is the high birth rate of Muslims, while it is in decline amongst the Buddhists.