Loaner White Elephant to Thailand a No-Go: President’s Office

By The Irrawaddy 19 June 2013

The government in Naypyidaw will not honor a proposal reportedly floated last week to loan a white elephant to Thailand in commemoration of more than six decades of bilateral ties.

The website of Burma’s President’s Office posted a message on Tuesday explaining the refusal, which it said was due to the logistical difficulties of transporting one of the revered pachyderms.

Citing the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the website said the white elephant request was originally made by Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul to his Burmese counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin while the two were attending the Forum for East Asia and Latin American Cooperation (FEALAC) last week in Indonesia.

To mark 65 years of bilateral relations between the two countries, Surapong last week told the Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation that Thailand would borrow a Burmese white elephant, which would be moved to the Chiang Mai Zoo for six months.

However, Wunna Maung Lwin was quoted by the President’s Office website as saying it would be too difficult to transfer a white elephant to the northern Thai city. The Burmese government would instead make arrangements for Thai citizens wanting to visit and see a white elephant in Naypyidaw, the minister added.

White elephants are considered auspicious in the Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia, where they are said to be powerful bringers of good fortune.

Burma currently has five white elephants in captivity, which were caught during the military dictatorship of Sr-Gen Than Shwe.