Wirathu (center) at a protest against visiting U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee.

Story highlights

Wirathu, an ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk in Myanmar, calls U.N. official a "whore"

U.N. human rights chief responds sharply, calling on Myanmar's leaders to condemn him

Wirathu is the leader of the 969 movement, blamed for stoking anti-Muslim sentiment

CNN  — 

The United Nations’ top human rights official has called on Myanmar’s leaders to “unequivocally condemn” an ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk who labeled a visiting U.N. rapporteur a “whore” at a protest.

Ashin Wirathu, the leader of the far-right, anti-Muslim 969 movement, made the remarks about Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, at a public rally on Friday.

“Don’t assume you are a respectable person, just because of your position,” he said in the speech, footage of which was widely circulated on social media. “To us, you are just a whore.”

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee at a press conference in Yangon.

The comments drew a sharp response from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who described Wirathu’s remarks as “sexist,” “insulting” and “utterly unacceptable.”

“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 from Geneva Wednesday.

“It’s intolerable for U.N. Special Rapporteurs to be treated in this way.”

Rakhine crisis

Lee was on a 10-day visit reporting on the human rights situation in the predominantly Buddhist southeast Asian country, which is emerging from a half-century of military rule.

She had spoken out about the crisis facing the country’s 1.3 million-strong Rohingya Muslim minority, most of whom live under apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine state, with limited access to adequate healthcare and education.

Since an outbreak of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012, more than 130,000 live in wretched displacement camps they are forbidden to leave.

Lee also criticized proposed law changes backed by the monks, including a bill restricting interfaith marriage and religious conversions.

She made reference to Wirathu’s comments in a statement this week. “During my visit, I was personally subjected to the kind of sexist intimidation that female human rights defenders experience when advocating on controversial issues,” she said.

Wirathu was jailed in 2003 for inciting anti-Muslim violence, but released in an amnesty nine years later.

Myanmar’s Minister of Information and presidential spokesperson Ye Htut posted comments on his Facebook page indicating he would ask the Ministry of Religious Affairs to look into Wirathu’s speech.

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