YANGON • A Myanmar beauty pageant has denied that it dethroned a teen contestant because of a graphic video she posted accusing Muslim Rohingya militants of driving communal violence in the west - an issue that has stirred a fierce nationalistic reflex inside the Buddhist-majority country.
Ms Shwe Eain Si was stripped of her Miss Grand Myanmar title earlier this week. Pageant organisers said she had breached her contract, but she alleged the move was linked to her comments on a crisis that has curdled religious tensions across the country.
In the video, interspersed with gruesome photos of mutilated bodies, Ms Shwe Eain Si expressed a view widely held among the Myanmar public that the Rohingya militants have led a "media campaign" to trick the world into thinking "they are the oppressed".
She was referring to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, where an army crackdown on militants has sent more than half a million Rohingya civilians fleeing to Bangladesh since August 25.
While the globe has looked on with horror as Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh, sharing stories of atrocities at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs, there is little sympathy for them inside Myanmar. The global pressure has sparked a siege mentality inside the country, which has oppressed the Muslim minority for years.
Miss Universe Myanmar yesterday denied that it punished the beauty queen for her video and even offered some praise for the clip, which made no mention of the Rohingya exodus.
"The decision of Miss Universe Myanmar organisation regarding Shwe Eain Si was not related at all with the Rakhine video," it said.
"Although the video file posted now is good, it would be better if it was filmed more completely."
The firm's original statement said she was stripped of her title for breaking a number of rules.
On Tuesday, the model denied breach of contract and defended her video as an effort by "a citizen of this country to use her fame to speak out the truth for her nation".
The UN has accused Myanmar's army of using its crackdown on the militants to systematically purge the Rohingya from its borders.