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'Revered' white elephant found in Myanmar

Published Nov 8, 2001


Yangon, Myanmar - A rare white elephant has been caught in a jungle in western Myanmar, official press reported on Thursday, hailing the find as an auspicious event that bodes well for the military state.

The eight-year-old beast, standing 1,8 metres tall, was among eight elephants caught by forestry officials last month at Chutpyin village in Rakhine State, 550km northwest of Yangon, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

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The white elephant is more calm and steady than the other seven elephants and has distinctive characteristics, including pearl-coloured eyes and white hairs on the body.

Its skin is light pink in the rain and soft reddish brown in sunny weather, the report said.

The New Light, which is a mouthpiece of the ruling military junta, said the find augured well for Myanmar as the regime endeavoured to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.

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White elephants have been revered for centuries in Southeast Asia and were the symbol of kingship in Myanmar - also known as Burma - Thailand and Laos. In Thailand, all white elephants traditionally belong to the king, and their keepers are required to deal with them respectfully.

White elephants are not actually white, and most of them look much the same as others except for certain features such as fair eyelashes and toenails, light coloured hair or reddish hue of the skin.

"According to the records, it is said that the white elephant brings, peace, stability and prosperity to the nation; that it prevents dangers and brings bumper food harvests," the New Light said.

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"It is assumed that the nation will be peaceful, prosperous and free from all the dangers," it said.

The New Light and two other state newspapers devoted an entire page each to the report. They didn't say what would be done with the elephant.

Nearly 3 000 elephants are still extensively used in Myanmar forests to haul teak logs. A war between the kings in Myanmar and Thailand was fought in the 16th century over disputed ownership of four white elephants. - Sapa-AP

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