Myanmar firebrand monk defends UN 'whore' slur

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's most high profile radical nationalist monk on Tuesday defended calling a UN rights envoy a "whore" over her objections to controversial draft bills seen as discriminatory to women and minorities.

After joining hundreds of monks rallying against United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee on Friday, firebrand cleric Wirathu told supporters that the human rights expert was a "whore in our country" in a fiery speech shared widely on social media.

The monk, who has been accused of fanning religious tensions in Myanmar, told AFP that he stood by his comments.

"That was the harshest word (I could think of), so I used it. If I could find a harsher word, I would have used it. It is nothing compared to what she did to our country," said the monk, who has accused the UN of trying to "interfere" in the nation's affairs.

His speech generated a flurry of comments on social media, with many people expressing shock at his language.

"It's very shameful," said one Facebook user, while another blamed Myanmar's government for allowing the controversial monk to carry on his activities unchallenged.

Wirathu declined to respond in detail to the criticism, only saying that it was "their right" to comment.

In his boisterous address to supporters on Friday, the monk had slammed Lee over her criticism of a set of religious "protection" bills that have been championed by hardline clerics.

Lee said the draft legislation - including curbs on interfaith marriage, religious conversion and birth rates - would be a further sign that Myanmar was "backtracking" in its democratic reforms if passed by parliament.

Activists say the laws are particularly discriminatory against women and religious minorities in the Buddhist majority country.

High-level government support for the bills has raised fears over growing politicisation of religion in the diverse nation as it heads towards crunch elections later this year that are seen as a key test of its emergence from outright military rule.

Religious violence has erupted sporadically across the country since 2012, when unrest between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists ignited in Rakhine state.

Lee also faced protests in Rakhine during her Myanmar visit, over perceived UN bias in favour of the Rohingya.

Before leaving Myanmar Friday, Lee said that protesters were entitled to air their views. United Nations spokesman Aye Win said he did not having anything to add when contacted by AFP Tuesday.

"These people have availed themselves of their freedom of expression," he told AFP.

Myanmar president's office spokesman Zaw Htay said that no official complaint about Wirathu's remarks had been received.