Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: US ambassador keeps using controvercial term in Myanmar

The United States ambassador to Myanmar has said that he is in favor of the continued use of “Rohingya” to describe the country’s ethnic Muslim minority, despite a request to cease use of the word from Aung San Suu Kyi’s ministry. Myanmar nationalists use the term “Bengali” to refer to the Muslim ethnicity, as it suggests that they are not from Myanmar as they claim, but interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh. In a meeting at the American Center in Yangon on Tuesday, Ambassador Scot Marciel said Muslims in the Rakhine State have the right to self-identify. “They get to choose what they want to be called,” RFA (Radio Free Asia) Burmese service quoted Scot Marciel as saying. “Our international practice is to recognize that communities anywhere in the world have the right to choose what they should be called”. On May 5, a government minister said that the embassy was asked to refrain from using the term during high-level talks following pressure from Buddhist nationalists. In April, around 500 Buddhist nationalists staged an unauthorized demonstration outside the embassy in Yangon to protest the use of the term to describe the country’s stateless and persecuted Muslim minority.



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