Nationalist Monk Criticized After Inflammatory Speech

By Nyein Nyein & San Yamin Aung 19 January 2015

RANGOON — A spokesman for President Thein Sein has said he will raise with the Religious Affairs Ministry an inflammatory speech delivered by U Wirathu, a prominent member of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, in which he referred to a United Nations envoy as a “whore”.

Speaking on Friday at a rally in Rangoon, held to denounce a recent vote of the UN General Assembly calling for the granting of citizenship to the Rohingya Muslim minority in Arakan State, U Wirathu singled out UN Special Rapporteur for Burma Yanghee Lee for criticism.

A 10-minute excerpt of the monk’s speech, cheered on enthusiastically by his supporters, has been shared widely on social media, and a short translation of his incendiary comments was published on Monday morning by Democratic Voice of Burma. Referring to legislative proposals sponsored by the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, U Wirathu launched into a tirade against Ms. Lee’s public statements on the bills.

“We have already made public the Race Protection Law, but this bitch, without studying it, kept on complaining about how it is against our human rights, just because some loud-mouthed women say so,” he told his audience. “Can this bitch really be from a respectable background? 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.”

The speech was delivered on the same day as Ms. Lee concluded her second visit to Burma with a press conference at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon, during which she discussed her visit to Arakan State and warned that the government’s reform program was at risk of stalling.

Ye Htut, the presidential spokesperson and the Minister of Information told The Irrawaddy on Monday that he would ask the Ministry of Religious Affairs to investigate the speech.

“I would not make any criticism against the monks,” the minister said, “but I am sure that the Ministry of Religious Affairs always urges the religious leaders to act in accordance with their religious code of ethics. Personally, I believe that Buddhist monks and any other religious leaders should recite speeches reflecting compassion, love, empathy and good ethics.”

U Pandavunsa, a leading figure in the Saffron Revolution and presiding monk of the Shwe Taung monastery, told The Irrawaddy that U Wirathu’s speech was contrary to the code of ethics for Buddhist monks.

“Insulting remarks is unacceptable in Buddhism, which teach about love and compassion,” he told The Irrawaddy. “According to our code of ethics, a member of our clergy cannot use his hands to bring other people to harm, not to mention curse or badmouth or insult them. Everybody understands that a monk should be a man of loving kindness. The International community will look down on Buddhism for what he said.”

U Wirathu could not be reached for comment on Monday.