The shutdown of two Islamic schools in Yangon is evidence of Myanmar’s government’s continued failure to protect religious minorities, says a rights group.
New York-based Human Rights Watch voiced their concerns about religious freedom in Myanmar after local officials temporally closed two schools in Thaketa township, near Yangon, on April 28 following protests from around 150 hard-line Buddhist monks and supporters.
“Burmese local officials’ craven capitulation to mob demands to shutter two Muslim schools is the latest government failure to protect Burma’s religions minorities,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said May 8.
The protesters demanded that local officials close the buildings as they are used for worship and built illegally.
A school committee member told HRW that the schools immediately sent a letter to the Rangoon Region chief minister’s office requesting to have the schools reopened. However, so far, they have not received a response.
Hard-line Buddhist monks from the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, known as Ma Ba Tha, encouraged anti-Muslim violence in 2012, which left more than 200 people dead and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
In October, the country’s security forces launched a months-long campaign of persecution against the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State.
Muslims account for 4.3 percent of the population in the Buddhist-majority country, according to the 2014 census but that figure does not include more than one million of Rohingya in Rakhine. Muslims arrived in the ninth century and most are of Indian, Chinese or Pathi descent.