On 23 January, DVB interviewed Wirathu, the controversial and outspoken Buddhist monk from Mandalay who is at the forefront of the 969 movement in Burma. Following a speech last week in which he called UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Yanghee Lee a “whore”, he has faced condemnation both at home and abroad. We asked him if he had any regrets.
Q: The United Nations (UN) has called for political and religious leaders to condemn your comments about Special Rapporteur Human Rights to Burma Yanghee Lee. What is your response to this?
A: In response to the UN’s call, I would like to urge our political and religious leaders to oppose any representative from a foreign country interfering with our sovereignty. I would say, ‘Do not let them determine our future’.
Q: Do you regret making the comments?
A: ‘Regret’ means feeling sorry for doing or saying something wrong. I was defending our religion: the sasana, and I should be glad that I succeeded in making this particular comment. I am delightfully proud.
Q: According to commentators and observers, you promote Islamophobia and hate speech. Are you focused on the Rohingya issue? Or the Islamic issue?
A: I am against Jihadism but not against all Muslims. The Rohingya are Jihadists and so are the Islamic extremists and those plotting to conquer our country under the 786 banner. My activism is focused against them, but not the people who live in peace.
Q: There are rumours circulating on social media that officials from the Religious Affairs Department visited the New Masoyein Monastery on 22 January and informed the abbot that you are to face charges for your remarks. Do you know if that is true?
A: It was true that religious affairs officials visited the monastery. They came around 11:30am on Thursday. But I do not know what they discussed. The abbot has not yet told me anything.
Q: Do you think they came to discuss your comments amid all the international pressure?
A: Well, that is what people are speculating. But I was afraid to talk to the abbot, and I don’t know what they discussed as the meeting took place in his room.
Q: How would you like to respond to the UN statement [condemning your comments]?
A: I would like you to tell them that Burma’s stance on the Rohingya issue is not just about how the government feels about it, but our whole country. The entire national race shares the same sentiment. If [the UN] would like to see peace and coexistence in Burma, they must never use the word ‘Rohingya’, which is a bogus ethnic group.