By Kyaw Ye Lynn
YANGON, Myanmar (AA) - The United States ambassador to Myanmar has said that he is in favor of the continued use of "Rohingya" to describe the country's ethnic Muslim minority, despite a request to cease use of the word from Aung San Suu Kyi´s ministry.
Myanmar nationalists use the term "Bengali" to refer to the Muslim ethnicity, as it suggests that they are not from Myanmar as they claim, but interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.
In a meeting at the American Center in Yangon on Tuesday, Ambassador Scot Marciel said Muslims in the Rakhine State have the right to self-identify.
"They get to choose what they want to be called," RFA (Radio Free Asia) Burmese service quoted Scot Marciel as saying.
"Our international practice is to recognize that communities anywhere in the world have the right to choose what they should be called".
On May 5, a government minister said that the embassy was asked to refrain from using the term during high-level talks following pressure from Buddhist nationalists.
“We told them that the use of the term by the U.S. embassy is not supportive of national reconciliation in Myanmar,” the Myanmar Times reported Soe Lynn Han, deputy director general of the ministry, as saying.
“They said they have noted the request".
In April, around 500 Buddhist nationalists staged an unauthorized demonstration outside the embassy in Yangon to protest the use of the term to describe the country's stateless and persecuted Muslim minority.
Win Zaw Zaw Latt, from the Yangon-based Myanmar National Network, told Anadolu Agency prior to the demonstration that it had been organized to tell the U.S. embassy to respect the government and people of Myanmar.
"It is already clear that there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya in our country,” he claimed. “We demand the U.S. as well as western countries and the EU to stop using the term Rohingya”.
The embassy used the term in a recent statement to illustrate its concerns about the situation in western Rakhine State, where communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims in 2013 left 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, around 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.