UN rights chief slams Myanmar monk for 'sexist' remarks

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein sharply criticised a prominent Myanmar monk on Wednesday for what he said were sexist and abusive public comments about a UN special rapporteur.

According to the website of Irrawaddy magazine, the Buddhist monk U Wirathu condemned human rights rapporteur Yanghee Lee at a public rally on Friday held to denounce a recent UN General Assembly vote calling for minority Rohingya Muslims to be granted citizenship in the country, also known as Burma.

"Just because you hold a position in the United Nations doesn't make you an honorable woman. In our country, you are just a whore," Wirathu told a cheering crowd of several hundred people in Yangon on Friday.

"Can this b***h really be from a respectable background?" Irrawaddy magazine quoted U Wirathu as saying in the speech, which was posted on YouTube by the Democratic Voice of Burma.

Zeid condemned the remarks.

"The sexist, insulting language used against the UN's independent human rights expert on Myanmar... by an influential monk during Ms Lee's official visit to the country is utterly unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"It is intolerable for UN special rapporteurs to be treated in this way, and I call on religious and political leaders in Myanmar to unequivocally condemn all forms of incitement to hatred including this abhorrent public personal attack against a UN-appointed expert," Zeid said.

He added that instead of attacking Lee, religious and political leaders in Myanmar should tackle the substance of concerns she has raised.

Another prominent monk said on Tuesday that U Wirathu had violated his monastic code and could damage his religion but was unlikely to face censure.

Lee, a South Korean, visited Myanmar earlier this month to assess the current rights situation there.

In her latest annual report last year, Lee warned that "the Rohingya community continues to face systematic discrimination."

She said abuses suffered by the Rohingya population included executions, torture, forced labour, displacements and rape.

Most of Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine state in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Almost 140,000 Rohingya remain displaced after deadly clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.

Myanmar's government says it should no longer be subjected to special scrutiny by UN rights bodies.

Its UN mission did not respond immediately to a request for comment.