Hardline Buddhist nationalists have marched in the streets of Yangon in an attempt to rationalize the treatment of persecuted Rohingyas, saying the international community ought to stop interfering with Myanmar's affairs.
About 500 Buddhist monks and their followers protested in the capital after the international community called for the Myanmar government to provide aid and assistance to the increasing number of boat people stranded at sea.
One of the rally organizers on May 27 told the crowd that saving minority Rohingyas, who are Muslims, and whom he referred to as "Bengalis," was "not a good idea."
U Pamaukkha, also a Buddhist monk activist, asked the government not to succumb to international pressure.
"We absolutely turn down the pressure from foreign countries to accept Bengalis as they are not the citizens of our country," Pamaukkha said in an interview with ucanews.com.
"So we call on the international community not to interfere the sovereignty in the name of human rights," he continued. "The Bengalis are trying to influence our Buddhist community in the country so we must defend from it."
Both the government and many of Myanmar's citizens call Rohingyas "Bengali" because they consider them immigrants hailing from Bangladesh.
But Rohingyas, whose population is estimated to be over one million, have lived in Myanmar for centuries.
Protesters marched in the capital wearing shirts bearing messages having an anti-Rohingya sentiment, while some of their placards appealed to the United Nations to "stop making a story of Rohingya, Boat people are not Myanmar."
The worsening plight of the Rohingya captured international attention in 2012 when violence erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine state, alarmed U.N. agencies after a number of Southeast Asian countries initially turned away refugees who left Myanmar on boats.
Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia later relented and decided to accept refugees on the condition that the international community provides funding for the needs of the Rohingyas.
Minority Catholics in Myanmar led by the country's first cardinal urged the country's leaders to exercise compassion among the persecuted people.
"Our brothers and sisters in Myanmar never [flinched] from their commitment to compassion in the moments of human brokenness.
"Sadly, democracy has brought in hatred, denial of rights to sections of the people. People of Myanmar [must] reset their moral compasses and return to fellowship," Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said in a statement issued May 25.
"Names cannot dilute humanity," Bo added, pointing out that Myanmar citizens must promote human dignity and not tarnish it by persecuting minorities.
"A community cannot be demonized and denied its basic rights to name, citizenship and right to community."