Global Islamic body urges aid to Myanmar Muslims

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:41pm EDT

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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a group of 57 member states, urged the Muslim community around the world to give political, humanitarian and financial aid to the victims of violence in northwest Myanmar.

"This is a large humanitarian crisis but unfortunately the international and Muslim communities are mostly unaware of the dimensions," Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a news conference on Tuesday.

"In this holy month I call upon all the Muslims...to extend aid for this issue."

Longstanding tensions between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas boiled over in Myanmar's Rakhine state early last month, resulting in a series of arson and machete attacks in which the authorities say 77 people were killed and more than 100 wounded.

The violence has affected both Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhines, but rights groups have accused police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingyas in the wake of the riots.

The riots followed two incidents in the same state: the gang rape and murder of a Rakhine woman - for which three Rohingya youths were sentenced to death - and the vigilante killing of 10 Muslims travelling on a bus less than a week later.

Nearly 5,000 homes have been torched and tens of thousands of people displaced. Myanmar's government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas as illegal immigrants, though Rohingya activists say their lineage in the region dates back centuries.

"There is displacement where tens of thousands of people lost their homes. There is a great need to house them, feed them, help them medically...There is a need for political and humanitarian aid. There is also a need for financial aid," Ihsanoglu said.

The "political aid" would consist of diplomatic representations to the Myanmar government on behalf of the Rohingyas, he said.

"We asked member states, who have embassies in Myanmar, to call the government and ask them to improve their treatment of those people."

The OIC will hold a consultative meeting in Kuala Lumpur on August 3 to determine possible ways to deliver aid to affected people in Myanmar and refugees from the violence who fled to neighboring countries, Ihsanoglu said.

The OIC plans to discuss the issue further during its extraordinary summit in Mecca on August 14-15

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; editing by Tim Pearce)

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