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Buddhist monk calls UN expert 'whore' over Muslim support

Buddhist monks protest against visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee in Rangoon.
Buddhist monks protest against visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee in Rangoon. AFP

A prominent Burmese monk has been castigated by both the international community and fellow Buddhists for calling a female UN representative campaigning for the rights of minority Rohingya Muslims a “whore”.

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UN correspondent in New York

Nationalist monk Ashin Wirathu, who is known in Burma for his loose tongue, devoted a diatribe to human rights rapporteur Yanghee Lee, who is battling to highlight the plight of the country’s stateless and isolated Rohingya Muslims, up to 140,000 of which have been displaced by ongoing violence in the poor western state of Rakhine.

“We have already made [our] Race Protection Law public. But this bitch, without studying [the legislation], kept on complaining how it is against human rights,” the Democratic Voice of Burma quoted him as saying.

“Just because some loud-mouthed women say so,” he continued. “Can this bitch be from a respectable background?”

Wirathu made the comments at a public rally in Rangoon on Friday in response to a vote in December by the UN General Assembly calling for Rohingya Muslims to be granted citizenship. Hundreds of monks gathered to applaud his vitriolic rant.

At one point Wirathu, who spent almost a decade in prison on charges of inciting anti-Muslim violence, suggested that Lee should express her support for the Rohingya by having sex with them.

“If you are so willing, you should offer your arse to the kalar [racist slur meaning dark]. But you will never sell off our Arakan State [former name of Rakhine]!”

He then went on to condemn the United Nations, which many Burmese Buddhists claim is biased towards Muslims in the country, also known as Myanmar.

"Just because you hold a position at the United Nations doesn't make you an honourable woman. In our country, you are just a whore," Wirathu said, to cheers and laughter from the crowd.

Wirathu leads a Buddhist nationalist movement called 969, which has been thriving since the end of military rule in 2011. Its key concern is conserving Burma as a Buddhist-only country.

‘Systematic discrimination’

The UN describes the Rohingya ethnic group as one of the most persecuted in the world. The Burmese government claims that the Rohingya are not citizens but immigrants, despite them having lived in the country for generations.

In 1982 the Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship and the right to property, marriage and education. Decades of discrimination led in 2012 to violent ethnic clashes, during which scores of people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless.

Rohingya woman Bibijan Rahimullah with her husband and three children at a residential building in Kuala Lumpur, where they fled to from Rakhine State amid ongoing violence. Photo © AFP Novemebr 2014.
Rohingya woman Bibijan Rahimullah with her husband and three children at a residential building in Kuala Lumpur, where they fled to from Rakhine State amid ongoing violence. Photo © AFP Novemebr 2014.

In her latest annual report, presented in 2014, Lee warned of “continued systematic discrimination" against the Rohingya. She cited abuses including executions, torture, forced labour, displacements and rape.

“Fundamental rights are not hierarchical – they aren’t conditional upon one another. They’re inalienable,” Lee told reporters on Friday at the end of a 10-day trip to Burma. “You can be assured that in all my meetings with government interlocutors, I use the word ‘Rohingya’. The rights of Rohingya people must be protected, promoted and upheld.”

‘Damaging to Buddhism’

United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein denounced Wirathu’s comments on Wednesday as “intolerable”.

"The sexist, insulting language used against the UN's independent human rights expert on Myanmar ... by an influential monk during Ms. Lee's official visit to the country is utterly unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"It is intolerable for UN special rapporteurs to be treated in this way, and I call on religious and political leaders in Myanmar to unequivocally condemn all forms of incitement to hatred including this abhorrent public personal attack against a UN-appointed expert," Zeid said.

A prominent progressive monk said on Tuesday that Wirathu had violated his monastic code and may have damaged the reputation of the religion with his comments.

“The words used that day are very sad and disappointing. It is an act that could hurt Buddhism very badly,” U Thawbita, a member of the progressive Saffron Revolution Buddhist Monks Network in Mandalay, told Reuters.

Wirathu dismissed criticism over the comments, telling the AFP on Tuesday: "If I could find a harsher word, I would have used it. It is nothing compared to what [Lee] did to our country."

FRANCE 24 FOCUS: MOVING THE ROHINGYA INTO CLOSED CAMPS

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