YANGON, Myanmar – YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's state-controlled media hailed Saturday the capture of a rare white elephant as a positive omen for upcoming elections, the first balloting in two decades in the military-ruled country.
The 7-foot, 1-inch (216-centimeter) tall beast was captured Thursday in Rakhine state in the northwest, and is the fifth white elephant caught in a decade, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on its front page. The pachyderm is estimated to be 18 years old.
The newspaper, a mouthpiece for the ruling junta, hailed the elephant's capture as a sign the country will be peaceful and free from all dangers, and its people will enjoy greater prosperity and progress.
"It is auspicious that a rare white elephant emerged at a time when Myanmar was going through a democratic transition and the elections will be held peacefully and successfully," it said.
White elephants, actually albinos, have for centuries been revered in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and other Asian nations. They were normally kept and pampered by monarchs and considered a symbol of royal power and prosperity. Myanmar's military rulers, like many of the country's citizens, are said to be particularly superstitious.
The Nov. 7 general elections will be the first in 20 years. The National League for Democracy party of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won the last polls but was not allowed to take power by the military. It is boycotting this year's vote, charging that the election rules are unfair and undemocratic.
The New Light of Myanmar said the elephant's capture will ensure that peace, stability and prosperity will continue under the new elected government, explaining that white elephants only emerge in places where the practice of Buddhism flourishes and rulers govern justly.
It said that according to ancient treatises, it is hard to find even a single white elephant among a thousand, but five of the rare beasts have emerged from 2001 to 2010, and the latest discovery is a matter of "national pride."
The country's fourth white elephant, a 38-year-old female captured in the jungles of Rakhine state in June, was given a lavish welcome ceremony when it was taken to the administrative capital of Naypyitaw. It was housed in an enclosure near the Upptasanti pagoda, a replica of the famed Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, the former capital and biggest city in Myanmar.
Three other white elephants caught earlier are kept in a special park in Yangon, where they live in an enclosure with spiraled pavilions, a manmade waterfall, ponds and trees.