YANGON — Myanmar said it was holding a welcoming ceremony in the capital Sunday for two white elephants — considered symbols of good luck — after a landmark week for the army-dominated nation.
The recent capture of the pale pachyderms brings the number being held by the government to an auspicious seven, according to an official in the capital Naypyidaw, who was speaking anonymously.
Kings and leaders in the predominantly Buddhist nation have traditionally treasured white elephants, whose rare appearances in the country are believed to herald good fortune, including power and political change.
“The welcoming ceremony for two white elephants will be held this evening at Uppasasanti Pagoda,” the official told AFP, adding that Vice President Sai Mauk Kham would attend.
“We have altogether seven white elephants in Myanmar so far: four in Naypyidaw and three in Yangon.”
Sunday’s ceremony comes three days after the long-isolated country won approval to chair Southeast Asia’s regional bloc in 2014, as a reward for its recent series of reformist gestures.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama said he would send Hillary Clinton to Myanmar next month, the first visit by a US secretary of state in 50 years.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon has also announced a visit as soon as possible to propel reforms.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party said Friday it would re-register as a political party and contest coming by-elections after boycotting last year’s poll, paving the way for the 66-year-old Nobel laureate to run for office.
Last year’s vote — the first in 20 years — was widely dismissed as a sham, but state media hailed the capture of another white elephant before the polls as a sign there would be a successful “democratic transition”.
Though the election was mired in allegations of cheating, the nominally civilian government it ushered in has since surprised critics with a string of conciliatory gestures, such as holding direct talks with Suu Kyi.
One of elephants welcomed on Sunday was a five-year-old male from western Rakhine state, while the second was a female aged 15 found in the Irrawaddy region, west of Yangon, another official said.
Despite its name, a white elephant is more pink than white.