Burma’s President Tells VOA He Will Open Schools for Muslims

Posted August 14th, 2012 at 8:55 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Burmese President Thein Sein says his government will open schools to improve the education of minority Rohingya Muslims who accuse the majority Buddhist state of persecuting them.

In an exclusive interview with VOA Burmese Service chief Lwin Htun Than, President Thein Sein said education is an important tool to help different communities live in harmony and respect human rights.

In the interview, conducted Monday in the capital, Naypyitaw, the Burmese president said Bengalis, his term for the Rohingya, only have religious schools and lack what he called “proper education.”

He said, “so we will open schools for them and give them modern education. And once they become educated, they will be more thoughtful and can decide what is right and what is wrong.”

The Burmese government refuses to recognize the country's estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group and denies them citizenship. Many Burmese consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Mr. Thein Sein also said he believes it is necessary to modify Burma's 1982 Citizenship Law, which grants Burmese nationality to third generation immigrants. He did not elaborate.

He also reiterated Burma's opposition to any foreign investigation of recent deadly sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine. The Saudi-based Organization for Islamic Cooperation has called for such an investigation of the violence, which its members view as a case of religious persecution against the Rohingya.

President Thein Sein said the government is giving assistance to the victims and has asked an “independent” Burmese Human Rights Commission to investigate the unrest, which erupted in May and killed 77 people from the Rohingya and Buddhist communities. He said there is “no need” for a foreign commission to investigate the violence as an international issue.