Prominent Buddhist monk takes heat for 'whore' remarks

Prominent Buddhist monk takes heat for 'whore' remarks

Ashin Wirathu, a prominent monk from the Masoe Yein Buddhist Monastery in Mandalay Region, has come under widespread criticism for his remarks about Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Myanmar.

In his response to Lee's recommendation that Myanmar's Bengali population (so-called Rohingyas), be granted citizenship and freedom to travel, Wirathu reportedly referred to her as a 'whore', among other insults.

"We have publicised our Race Protection Law, but without even studying it, this b***h complains about how it is against human rights," he said in a speech to hundreds of supporters in Yangon on Friday.

"Can this whore really be from a respectable family background? Don't assume you are a respectable person just because you work for the UN. In our country, you are just a whore. You are useless for our country. You don't have permission to sell our Rakhine State. Don't think of destroying Rakhine State. It is our defence unit. It is our door. If you destroy our door, we will fight you," Wirathu said.

"If you want, you may offer your [self] to the kalar [racist term for black people]. But you will never sell off our Rakhine State," he said.

Following his remarks, members of the public and the Sangha criticised Wirathu.

"His abusive words go against Vinaya rules [the code of conduct for Buddhist monks]," said a Sayadaw from Yangon. According to the Vinaya, Buddhist monks are prohibited from uttering ten particularly abusive words.

"All verbal acts of U Wirathu go against the code of conducts for Buddhist monks," said Myawady Sayadaw Ashin Vansabhivamsa.

"We should declare that his verbal and physical deeds have nothing to do with the Sasana [religion] or the monkhood. They are his action alone," said the Myawady Sayadaw.

For a Theravada Buddhist country like Myanmar, it is vital to exactly follow the Buddha teachings so that the Sasana can perpetuate.

Shwenyawa Sayadaw Ashin Panna Siha said Wirathu'a abusive words are a humiliation to the Theravada Buddhism that Myanmar seeks to uphold.

"For a Buddhist monk, expressing anger is out of line, let alone using abusive words. Such acts should not be committed by lay people or monks. Buddhist monks must not respond to criticism they receive," said the Sayadaw.

In 2013, TIME magazine ran a cover story on Ashin Wirathu using the title "The Face of Buddhist Terror". At that time, Wirathu's supporters and others protested against the magazine, claiming that Buddhist teachings are not extreme and that Wirathu himself is not an extremist.

However, after his remarks about the Ms Lee, few people spoke out to defend him.

Ashin Wiruthu began holding talks on nationalism in 2001. Clashes occurred after he delivered a sermon in Kyaukse, hometown, in October 2003. A few days later, he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison on several charges, including the distribution of leaflets to incite racial conflict. He was released from prison in 2010 under a general amnesty.

Since 2011, his talks have spread on the internet, and he has become popular as the leader of the anti-Muslim '969' movement. He is also a prominent supporter of the Race Protection Law.

There have been reports that Wirathu recently held secret meetings with Aung Thaung, advisor to the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, and former intelligence chief Khin Nyunt, with whom he is reported to be close.

Some reports claim that in addition to insulting Yanghee Lee in his speech on January 16, he also made offensive remarks about opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Tun Nyunt, director of the Religious Affairs Department, said that action would not be taken against Wirathu based on hearsay, but an investigation could be launched if his department received a complaint that the monk violated his code of conduct.

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