Reuters ran a story yesterday about hardline monk Wirathu’s endorsement of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party ahead of the elections on November 8.
The piece was full of juicy quotes. Wirathu slammed Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, calling members “full of themselves.” Senior NLD official Win Htein responded by telling the influential monk to “go to hell.”
But Wirathu made his position clear a day earlier, when he changed his profile picture on his widely followed Facebook page to a not very subtle endorsement of the ruling party.
The photo is of President Thein, with a flag of Myanmar in the background.
“I’ll be with you Mr. PRESIDENT,” read the words across the top, followed by “You are OURS” along the bottom.
Monks aren’t supposed to get involved in politics, but that ship has sailed so far out of the harbor it has been lost in a storm.
Wirathu and other nationalist monks that are part of the Committee to Protect Race and Religion have every reason to be happy with Thein Sein at the moment.
He signed off on all four of the laws they wanted passed, laws that most observers have slammed for curtailing religious freedom and the rights of women. He even let them have their little (okay, not so little) party yesterday at a stadium in Yangon celebrating passage of the legislation.
Analysts think Thein Sein and the ruling party are courting the monks as an election tactic, but for a president who clearly thinks about legacy, this doesn’t seem like a great bet in the long run. He may be remembered less for leading the country out of military rule than letting groups like Wirathu’s dictate the future.
Photo / Facebook / Wira Thu