Yangon: Hundreds of Buddhists marched through the streets of Myanmar`s biggest city on Tuesday to protest an upcoming visit by a high-level delegation from the world`s biggest Islamic political bloc.
Some of those who marched in Yangon carried banners saying "Get out!" and "Stop interfering in our internal affairs!"
Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and several foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a grouping of 57 Islamic countries, will arrive in Myanmar early tomorrow to meet with government officials, religious leaders and members of civil society about sectarian violence that has gripped the predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million for more than a year.
More than 240 people have died in the violence and 240,000 others have had to flee their homes, many of them Rohingya Muslims, a long-persecuted religious minority.
The OIC team will travel on Friday to Rakhine state, scene of much of the violence, to meet with victims and visit crowded, rundown displacement camps.
Today`s rally, joined by nearly 200 Buddhist monks and about 100 laymen waving yellow, white and red religious flags, began at Yangon`s famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Clogging traffic, they wound through the streets to City Hall.
"The OIC is one-sided," said Pamaukkha, one of the monks who organised the protest.
The situation in Rakhine state has been especially tense, with allegations by Buddhist Rakhine that international humanitarian organisations operating in Myanmar are biased in favour of Rohingya, something they vehemently deny.
After repeated threats, some of the organisations have temporarily suspended operations in certain areas.
Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said if the OIC wants to see stability restored to the state, it`s best the delegation not visits.