Myanmar President Thein Sein has barred world Islamic body Organisation of the Islamic Conference from opening an office in the country, saying it goes against the “people’s desires”, the latest sign of sectarian conflict gripping the country.

Thousands of Buddhist monks marched on the streets of major cities – including Yangon and Mandalay – in protest against the Islamic body’s plan to open an office in the country after it had been given the green light. “We cannot accept any OIC office here,” Oattamathara, a monk leading the protest in Mandalay, told AFP.

The OIC head office have yet to comment on the decision. According to an IOC source, the body signed a ‘cooperation’ memorandum to open an office for “humanitarian work in the Burmese capital and a coordination office” in Rakhine. Members of the body visited Myanmar’s Rakhine state following accusations from rights groups that security forces opened fire on Rohingya Muslims amid the sectarian violence that has left dozens of people dead and displaced thousands.