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Nov-17-2012 17:20printcomments

OIC: Save Myanmar Muslims from 'Genocide'

“We would like the international community to act immediately to stop the ethnic cleansing,” - Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf

Myanmar refugee camp
Salem-News.com photo of Myanmar refugee camp

(DJIBOUTI Agency France Presse) - The world’s top Islamic body urged US President Barack Obama to look into the plight of Muslims in Myanmar’s unrest-hit Rakhine state as he makes a landmark trip to the Southeast Asian country.

“We expect the United States to convey a strong message to the government of Burma (Myanmar) so they protect that minority, what is going on there is a genocide,” said Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, who is the acting chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“We are telling things how they are, we believe that the United States and other ... countries ... should act quickly to save that minority which is submitted to an oppressive policy and a genocide,” he said at the end of an OIC foreign ministers’ meeting in Djibouti.

Obama on Saturday began a three-country visit in Southeast Asia, making stops in Thailand and Cambodia before a historic trip to Myanmar, a former pariah state. The White House hopes his visit will push the country to lock in democratic reforms.

Two major outbreaks of violence in Rakhine since June between Muslim and Buddhist communities have left 180 dead and more than 110,000, most of them the Muslim Rohingya, crammed into makeshift camps.

Security forces are also accused of abuse against the minority.

OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Turkey also urged a stop to what he called “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, considered among the most persecuted groups in the world by the United Nations.

“We would like the international community to act immediately to stop the ethnic cleansing,” he said.

The 57-member OIC decided at an August summit in Makkah to take the issue before the UN General Assembly.

Obama on Monday will become the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar — formerly known as Burma — in a short but hugely symbolic trip that he hopes will spur greater reform in the once isolated country and highlight a rare success for his policy of engaging pariah regimes.

Ahead of the visit, Myanmar President Thein Sein said Saturday that the communal unrest was hampering the country’s reforms and causing it “to lose face” on the world stage.

In October, Thein Sein blocked the OIC from opening an office in the country, following rallies against the organization’s efforts to help Rakhine’s Muslims.

The some 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar, who speak a language similar to that spoken in southeastern Bangladesh, are considered illegal immigrants by the government and many ethnic Burmese.

Myanmar’s reformist government is under pressure to give them a legal status as it comes under international scrutiny with warnings that the conflict threatens its democratic transition.

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