September 5, 2017 / 8:30 AM / 2 years ago

Indonesia to bar Myanmar protest at world's biggest Buddhist temple

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police have pledged to bar Islamist groups from staging a rally on Friday at the Borobudur Buddhist temple in central Java to protest against the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

Foreign tourists visit Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, June 29, 2015 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Andreas Fitri Atmoko/Antara Foto

Islamist groups say they plan the demonstration close to the stupa-topped Borobudur temple, which dates from the 9th century and is a popular tourist site, to call for an end to violence against the religious and ethnic minority in Myanmar.

Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Muslims and there have been a number of anti-Myanmar protests in Jakarta and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur over the treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Rohingyas.

Almost 125,000 Rohingyas have been forced to flee clashes between Rohingya insurgents and the army in the northwest Rakhine state. Tens of thousands have crossed the border into neighbouring Bangladesh.

“The action at Borobudur temple will be prohibited,” National Police Chief Tito Karnavian told reporters, according to media.

“This is not just part of the heritage of Indonesia, but that of the world. There is no need for protests in response to the Rohingya conflict because the Indonesian government is taking action on it already.”

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Monday met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and top security officials to call for a halt to the bloodshed. Marsudi was due in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, on Tuesday.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif expressed “deep anguish at the ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslims” and urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to take “immediate and effective action to bring an end to all human-rights violations against innocent and unarmed Rohingya Muslim population”.

An organiser of Friday’s planned protest said the groups wanted to protest peacefully near the Borobodur temple to show Indonesia’s tolerance.

“The Borobudur is an extraordinary symbol of tolerance,” said Anang Imamuddin. “We want the world to know that it is in a majority Muslim country but it is safe. Buddhist monks are safe here too.”

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Clarence Fernandez

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