Firebrand monk Wirathu hits back at UN and the international community
An ultra-nationalist monk – dubbed the "Buddhist Bin Laden" – on Sunday condemned the international community for their calls to bring Myanmar's generals to justice over the Rohingya crisis.
Firebrand monk Wirathu, known as the face of Myanmar's Buddhist nationalist movement, was speaking at a pro-military rally that attracted hundreds of supporters, his first since being barred from giving public sermons last year.
The ban, which ended in March, was issued by a council of senior monks who said Wirathu had "repeatedly delivered hate speech against religions to cause communal strife".
The hate speech he espouses – which includes calling the Rohingya Muslim minority "Bengali" in an attempt to delegitimise their identity as being from Myanmar – has also caused Facebook to ban him from their platform.
The hardline abbot on Sunday reverted to his signature rhetoric at the rally to protest calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Myanmar's generals for genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
"The day when the ICC comes here...is the day that Wirathu holds a gun," he said in a speech that often referred to himself in the third person.
He lauded China and Russia in the UN Security Council as "nationalist giants who stand with the truth" in their role of preventing any firm action against Myanmar.
"Don't lie to the world saying that Bengalis are Rohingya because you want to promote Islamisation in Myanmar," Wirathu said. "Don't destroy our country by creating a fake ethnic group."
The military has said their brutal crackdown – which led to more than 720,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border carrying accounts of rape, arson and murder – was warranted for combatting terrorism.
While much of the world has regarded the unfolding Rohingya crisis with horror, the majority of people within Myanmar side with the military as the Muslim minority group is widely detested.
The supporters showed up in force at Sunday's march, with hundreds gathering in front of downtown Yangon's iconic Sule Pagoda carrying giant portraits of army chief General Min Aung Hlaing, who UN investigators say is the most responsible.
"We can't stand the bullying of the army chief and the Tatmadaw by the international community," said protester Khine Thet Mar, 46, using the Myanmar name for the military.
The UN Human Rights Council voted last month to prepare for criminal indictments over the atrocities in Myanmar.
Min Aung Hlaing has remained defiant in the face of international pressure, saying that no country, organisation or group has the "right to interfere in" Myanmar's sovereignty. (AFP)