More than 2,000 Army supporters, including Buddhist nationalists and monks, took part in the march.
Yangon, Myanmar: Thousands of people have marched in Yangon to show support for Myanmar’s military, which has come under heavy criticism over violence that has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee from Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh.
More than 2,000 Army supporters, including Buddhist nationalists and monks, took part in the march on Sunday.
More than 600,000 Rohingya from northern Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, when Myanmar security forces began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages.
Myanmar’s government has said it was responding to attacks on police outposts by insurgents, but the United Nations and others have said the response was disproportionate.
The United Nations has led global condemnation, calling the crackdown a “textbook” example of ethnic cleansing.
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson phoned Army chief Min Aung Hlaing earlier this week to express his concerns at alleged atrocities in Rakhine state and urge a swift and safe return for the Rohingya.
But inside Myanmar support for the Army has surged — an unlikely turnaround for a once feared and hated institution that ruled for 50 years and whose lawmakers lost heavily in 2015 polls.
Those elections sent Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party into power, but the Rohingya crisis has put her government on the backfoot.
Demonstrators carried banners lauding Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and rebuking the international community for “pressuring the Tatmadaw” — as Myanmar’s Army is known. “The Tatmadaw is essential for the country, it protects our ethnic groups, races and religion,” Nan Aye Aye Kyi, 54, said as the rally snaked through Yangon to the iconic Sule Pagoda. The Rohingya are not recognised as one of Myanmar’s patchwork of ethnic groups.
Fear of a Muslim takeover of Buddhist-majority Myanmar through Rakhine state has been kindled over decades by the Army, which is now casting itself as saviour of the nation.
The US is weighing targeted sanctions against key military leaders.