YANGON - Thousands of Buddhist monks marched in Myanmar's two biggest cities on Monday to protest against efforts by the world's biggest Islamic body to set up an office in the country to help Rohingya Muslims involved in deadly communal clashes four months ago.
The monks, a potent political force in the predominantly Buddhist country, denounced plans by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to set up a liaison office in northwest Rakhine state, where violence erupted in June between ethnic Buddhist Rakhines and Rohingyas.
Just hours after the monks dispersed, President Thein Sein's office announced it would not permit an OIC representation in Myanmar. It was not immediately clear if the announcement was linked to the protests or had been planned in advance.
Despite being one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries, there is entrenched ill-feeling in Myanmar towards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas, most of whom live in abject conditions.
Anger and fear still smoulder between Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists after the spree of arson and machete attacks that killed at least 77 people and displaced tens of thousands.