Myanmar monk faces backlash for insulting UN envoy

YANGON, Myanmar - A Myanmar Buddhist monk known for his anti-Muslim views has drawn ire from his fellow clergyman for calling a visiting senior UN official a “whore” during a public rally.

Prominent monks told local media Wednesday that U Wirathu violated the monastic code while speaking last Friday at a protest against Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar.

“For a Buddhist monk, it is going too far to express anger, let alone use abusive words,” Ashin Panya Thiha, a monk based in Yangon, told the Daily Eleven newspaper.

Hundreds of protestors had turned out alongside Wirathu to condemn Lee as she finished her second visit to the country. They decried her stance on proposed laws on marriage and religious conversion that critics say are an attack on women and non-Buddhists, especially Muslims.

“Don’t assume you are a respectable person, just because you have a position in the UN,” Wirathu said in a speech to the demonstrators. “In our country, you are just a whore.”

He also asked the cheering crowds: “Can this whore really be from a respectable family background?” prompting a resounding “No!”

Wirathu is a senior leader in the 969 nationalist movement, which is made up of monks who consider Islam a threat to both Buddhism and Myanmar.

He gained international prominence after a TIME magazine cover described him as “The face of Buddhist terror” in 2012, but has long been known locally – and revered by many – for his impassioned sermons.

At least 240 people were killed in religious rioting that erupted in western Rakhine state that year.

Protesters on Friday also condemned Lee for “bias” toward the Rohingya Muslim minority. The long-persecuted group lives mostly in Rakhine, where many Rakhine Buddhists regard them as illegal Bangladeshi interlopers.

Making use of a derogatory term for people with darker skin, Wirathu added during his speech addressing Lee: “If you are so willing, you may offer your arse to the kalar, but you will never sell off our Rakhine state.”

The UN has not responded to the comments but in a statement released after her visit, Lee said she had faced “the kind of sexist intimidation that female human rights defenders experience when advocating on controversial issues.”

The European Rohingya Council issued a statement Wednesday expressing concern over the “uncivilized” treatment of Lee and urged the international community - particularly the UN - to pressure Myanmar’s government to take immediate action against Wirathu.

“The tirade of Wirathu against a respected lady exposes the character of these so-called monks who have embarked on a mission to cleanse the country of its Muslim population,” Khairul Amin, the chairman of the Rohingya exile group, said.

Myanmar’s Information Minister Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy website Monday that he would raise the matter with the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency