Myanmar's ethnically divided Rakhine State witnessed mass protests, as thousands of Buddhists, including monks, demonstrated against a government edict to refer to Muslims as the 'Muslim communities of Rakhine' rather than describing them as 'Rohingya' or 'Bengalis'.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric has been on the rise across Myanmar recently, as Buddhist mobs ransacked and torched two mosques in the last week .
Myanmar has struggled to contain bloodshed on the basis of religion in recent years, especially in Rakhine State where Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims are at loggerheads.
Rakhine State is home to about a million stateless Muslims who self-identify as Rohingyas and are reviled by Rakhine Buddhists.
The government has sought to defuse the row over the term "Rohingya", by ordering officials to refer the Muslim community in the restive province as "Muslim communities in Rakhine".
Protesters said that too was unacceptable as it hands Muslims recognition in a Buddhist state.
"We reject the term 'Muslim communities in Rakhine State'," U Kyawt Sein, a protest organiser in Sittwe, said.
Rally-goers there shouted slogans including "Protect Rakhine State", while a protest in the town of Thandwe drew similar numbers, reports the Myanmar Times.
"Bengalis should be called Bengalis," Ko Phoe Thar Lay, a leader of a local Rakhine youth group, said, adding that all 17 townships across Rakhine were participating in protests yesterday afternoon.
Most Rohingya live cut off from the Buddhist community in displacement camps or remote settlements since sectarian riots in 2012.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has drawn criticism from rights groups for not taking up the cause of Muslims.
UN rights investigator Yanghee Lee after a 12-day visit to Rakhine and other conflict sites in Myanmar warned on July 1 that "tensions along religious lines remain pervasive across Myanmar society".
Lee urged the country's new civilian government to make "ending institutionalised discrimination against the Muslim communities in Rakhine State . an urgent priority.