JAKARTA — Thousands of Indonesian Muslims chanting “Allahu Akbar” protested in central Jakarta on Wednesday at Burma’s treatment of its 1.1 million Rohingya minority.
Around 146,000 Rohingya have fled Burma military counter-insurgency operations into Bangladesh over the past two weeks. The army’s reprisals came after Rohingya militants stormed Burma army and police posts in August.
Wednesday’s protest was the fourth and biggest pro-Rohingya demonstration over the past week in the Indonesian capital, the commercial centre of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.
The event was peaceful, though toward the end several dozen demonstrators tried to push through police barricades and razor-wire set up about 200 yards from the Burmese embassy.
Overhead swung an effigy of the Buddhist monk Wirathu, leader of an anti-Islamic movement in Burma that has been blamed for stirring anti-Rohingya feeling in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Some protesters stamped on posters of the Burmese head of government, the former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, and others waved anti-Buddhist placards.
Though the Burmese army is not under the control of the civilian government Suu Kyi heads, the former icon of peaceful resistance has been slammed abroad for not condemning discrimination against Rohingya.
The Myanmar government today claimed that the Rohingya militants, described as “Bengali” terrorists, who attacked the Myanmar police and army posts in northern Rakhine State want to carve out a separate state. Suu Kyi’s first statement on the crisis, an account today of a phone call with Turkish President Erdogan, slammed “fake news” about the crisis, which she compared with Kurdish secessionists in Turkey.
In Indonesia opposition politicians have used the crisis in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, to criticise the government led by President Joko Widodo, with deputy parliament speaker Fadli Zon tweeting that the government’s diplomacy was “sluggish.”
The groups protesting in Jakarta helped bring down the Christian Chinese-descent governor of Jakarta earlier this year – an implicit challenge to the government as the president was an ally of former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, now serving a two year jail term for insulting the Koran.
The lead group, the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, has in the past attacked Christians and Shia Muslim minorities in Indonesia.
It now claims it has thousands of volunteers ready to travel to Burma. However leader Habib Rizieq fled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year after being charged under Indonesia’s anti-porn laws over lewd images he allegedly exchanged with a woman via WhatsApp.