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An influential monk in eastern Burma has rebuffed a request by the ruling junta to secure support for the pro-military winners of the elections from a victorious Karen party.
Burma’s religious affairs minister, Thura Myint Maung and information minister, Kyaw Hsan, had made the appeal directly to the abbot of the Taungale monastery in Karen state, according to lay followers of the monk.
On the cards was a possible collaboration between the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party (PSDP) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won nearly 80 percent of seats.
Despite the significant clout of the USDP across Burma, it was the PSDP that emerged as a significant force in Karen state, which has been beset by conflict for more than six decades. The PSDP pledged to fight for ethnic and women’s rights, something that was conspicuously lacking in the USDP’s campaigning platform.
The Karen party had already rejected five approaches from the junta since the 7 November vote before the monk was brought into the picture. He is known to be close to the PSDP, and is a prominent figure in the Hpa-an area where the party is based.
The request was however rejected, with sources close to the monk claiming he told the two ministers that he did not want to get involved in politics. Ironically, monks were listed among the groups of people in Burma – including prisoners and drug-users – banned from voting in the elections.
PSDP chairman Khin Maung Myint said the party won a landslide victory in the constituencies it ran in. “There were over 50,000 eligible voters but not everyone turned out, and we won over 20,000 votes,” he said.