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Myanmar Extremist Monk Ashin Wirathu Calls UN Envoy “Whore” at Public Rally

Ashin Wirathu (AOL screen grab)

Ashin Wirathu (AOL screen grab)

An ultra-nationalist Burmese Buddhist monk has drawn a sharp rebuke from the United Nations after he called a visiting UN envoy who called for greater Muslim rights a “bitch” and a “whore” at a public rally.

The Associated Press reports UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Myanmar’s leaders to condemn controversial extremist monk Ashin Wirathu for using “utterly unacceptable” language to describe Yanghee Lee.

Lee, a South Korean UN envoy touring Myanmar to address the plight of that country’s heavily persecuted Muslim minority, the Rohingya, angered hardline Buddhists by calling on the country’s authoritarian government to respect Muslims’ human rights.

“Fundamental rights are not hierarchical – they aren’t conditional upon one another,” Lee said on Friday, according to Democratic Voice of Burma. “They’re inalienable. 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.”

The BBC reports Lee had criticized the proposed Race Protection Law, legislation backed by a coalition of nationalist monks which would further entrench anti-Muslim discrimination by strictly limiting inter-religious marriage and religious conversions.

This did not sit well with Wirathu and many other hardline Buddhists. Appearing on Friday at the Kyeikkasan Grounds in Rangoon’s Tamwe Township, Wirathu excoriated Lee in a speech to a group of hundreds of supporters.

“We have already made public our Race Protection Law, but without even studying it, this bitch [Burmese: kaungma] keeps on complaining about how it is against human rights!” railed Wirathu.

“Can this whore really be from a respectable family background?” he asked the crowd, who roared back “No!”

Wirathu continued: “Don’t assume you are a respectable person, just because you have a position in the UN. In our country, you are just a whore. If you are so willing, you may offer your arse to the kalar [racist term meaning ‘blacks’]. But you will never sell off our Arakan State!”

Zeid, the UN High Commissioner, called Wirathu’s comments “intolerable.”

“I call on religious and political leaders in Myanmar to unequivocally condemn all forms of incitement to hatred including this abhorrent public personal attack,” he said in a statement released in Geneva on Wednesday.

“It’s intolerable for UN special rapporteurs to be treated in this way,” Zeid added, calling the monk’s remarks “sexist” and “insulting.”

As Myanmar’s brutal military dictatorship began loosening its 40-year grip on the southeast Asian nation of 53.2 million inhabitants in 2010, it became increasingly apparent that the country’s 1.3 million Rohingya are living in a state of virtual apartheid. They are widely resented by the dominant Bamar ethnic group and are separated from them, sometimes in what are essentially concentration camps. There, they dwell in appalling conditions, often lacking enough food, water, medicine and other essential items.

Myanmar’s government refuses to acknowledge that the Rohingya are Burmese citizens. Some 800,000 of them have been forcibly expelled from the country, and Buddhist extremists have attacked and murdered Muslims with impunity. Hundreds more Rohingya have died fleeing Myanmar by boat.

In 2012, A Rohingya man was accused of raping a woman from the Rakhine ethnic group in Rakhine state. In retaliation, 10 Muslims were murdered. Tensions escalated into outright inter-ethnic warfare, with as many as 650 Rohingya killed, entire villages devastated and 90,000 people displaced.

Radio Free Asia reports Lee’s 10-day Burmese tour coincided with a visit by a high-level US delegation headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, who said the United States is “very concerned” about human rights abuses targeting the Rohingya.

“We are very concerned … about growing signs of racial and religious intolerance and the impact of this trend on the future of democratic reform in the country,” Malinowski told a press conference Friday in Yangon.

After the ruling regime released hundreds of political prisoners, including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, in 2010, US President Barack Obama visited Myanmar twice, despite what critics, including some international human rights organizations, call the continued ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.

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