GENEVA — A UN human rights investigator said on Wednesday she expects Burma to guarantee her security, despite failing to censure a radical Buddhist monk who called her a “whore” and incited his followers against her.
Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, has angered the country’s government by criticizing its restrictions on political freedom and by demanding citizenship rights for the Rohingya Muslim minority in Arakan State.
That has also made her a hate figure for Buddhist monks led by U Wirathu, who once called himself “the Burmese bin Laden” and mosques “enemy bases”. He denounced Lee as a “whore” and a “bitch” at a public rally in January.
After Lee submitted her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, U Wirathu posted a threatening riposte on his Facebook page.
“Dear patriots, let us find ways and means to teach the beastly woman a lesson,” he wrote, according to a translation by the U.N. Human Rights Office.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is “disgusted with the latest comments”, his spokesman Rupert Colville said.
“He sees it as a clear and personal incitement to violence … and he wants to stress that it’s absolutely the responsibility of the government of Myanmar to deal with threats of violence and incitement and to ensure the safety of the special rapporteur when she visits.”
Lee told reporters there was “always a great possibility” that her personal safety could be jeopardized.
“I have confidence in the Myanmar government that they will see that my security and the security of my staff is their utmost priority. But it doesn’t mean that any individual couldn’t do something very crazy.
“However, I am disappointed that the government has not disassociated itself from these remarks, and the government has blamed me for leaving the country with this distrust, discord and incitement.”
Under Burmese law, all slogans and logos for any rally must be cleared with authorities beforehand, Lee said, so the government could have prevented U Wirathu’s 10-minute-long inflammatory speech.
U Wirathu was jailed for 25 years in 2003 for distributing anti-Muslim pamphlets that incited communal riots in his hometown, where a Buddhist mob killed at least 10 Muslims, but he was freed in 2011 during an amnesty for political prisoners.
A Reuters investigation in 2013 found that organized attacks on Muslims in late 2012 were led by Arakanese nationalists incited by Buddhist monks and sometimes abetted by local security forces.