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A UN rights expert, who was harshly criticised and threatened during a recent visit to Burma, said on Wednesday she expected the government to invite her back and to ensure her safety.
“I am convinced I will be invited back,” United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma Yanghee Lee told reporters in Geneva.
Lee, who visited Burma, officially known as Myanmar, in January and who presented her report on the country to the UN Human Rights Council this week, has angered Naypyidaw with her warnings that the country seems to be “backtracking” in its democratic reforms.
The South Korean national’s advocacy for the rights of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority has also infuriated many Buddhists.
During her visit in January, hundreds of monks rallied against her, and the country’s most notorious hardline monk Wirathu called her a “whore in our country”.
And following the recent publication of her report, the monk issued a threat on his Facebook page.
“Oh dear patriots, let us find ways and means to teach the beastly woman a lesson,” he wrote.
While acknowledging there is “a great possibility” someone might try to act on his call, Lee said Wednesday she was confident the Burmese government “will see that my security and the security of my staff is their utmost priority.”
A spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein meanwhile said he was “disgusted” with the new attack on Lee.
The human rights chief condemned Wirathu’s comments “as a clear incitement to violence and he wants to stress that it is absolutely the responsibility of the government of Myanmar to deal with threats of violence and to ensure the safety of the special rapporteur,” spokesman Rupert Colville said.
“It is totally unacceptable that a special rapporteur appointed by the international community … should be subjected to this,” he added.
The mass demonstrations against Lee during her visit are all the more remarkable since any demonstration in the country requires government approval.
Lee said she was disappointed that instead of criticising the demonstrators, the government had criticised her leaving the “people of Myanmar with discord, distrust and incitement.”
In her report to the Human Rights Council, Lee cautioned she was seeing “a growing atmosphere of fear, distrust and hostility” in Burma.
She highlighted the “dire” situation in Arakan [Rakhine] State, where many Muslim Rohingya wallow in “abysmal” camps.
She warned that acute tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in Arakan, which has been wracked by violence since 2012, could have “far-reaching implications”.
Burmese representative Maung Wai vehemently objected to her report, saying “all the considerable progress we have made is either ignored or treated as insignificant.”