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Buddhist monks protest arrival of Rohingya aid ship in Myanmar

By Andrew V. Pestano
Buddhist monks protest arrival of Rohingya aid ship in Myanmar
A man wears a headband reading "No Rohingya" during a protest outside the Thilawa Port where a Malaysian aid ship arrived in Yangon, Myanmar on Thursday. The aid ship from Malaysia carrying 230 volunteers, including 20 doctors and 10 medics, along with around 2,200 tons of food and emergency supplies, will drop 500 tons of supplies in Myanmar, while it will take the rest to Bangladesh. Photo by Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Buddhist monks and other protesters demonstrated in Myanmar against the arrival of a ship from Malaysia carrying aid for thousands of Rohingya people.

The protesters on Thursday waved Myanmar's national flag and signs reading "No Rohingya" in Yangon's Thilawa Port. Buddhist national groups are opposed to the presence of the ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar -- calling them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

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The protesters also oppose using the word "Rohingya" at all because, to them, they are people from Bangladesh living illegally in Myanmar. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The aid ship, the Nautical Aliya, which carried more than 2,200 of cargo for Rohingyas in Myanmar and Bangladesh, docked at about 3 p.m. The ship will drop off 500 tons of aid in Myanmar before departing to Bangladesh.

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"We want to let them know that we have no Rohingya here," a Buddhist monk from the Yangon chapter of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union said at the docks.

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More than 66,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since October 2016 after the army launched a military crackdown following an attack by a Rohingya militant group.

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Malaysia has been critical of Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya since the start of the military crackdown accused of human rights abuses.

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The ship was met by a crowd of about 100 people -- including protesters but mostly journalists and local officials, such as Myanmar's Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister Win Myat Aye, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican and Malaysian Ambassador to Myanmar Mohd Haniff.

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