Trump scores sup­port from two in Myan­mar

Speak­ing up at the last minute be­fore Amer­i­cans head to the polls to­mor­row, U Hla Swe and U Wi­rathu have weighed in with their en­dorse­ment of Don­ald Trump for US pres­i­dent.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - SHOON NAING news­room@mm­times.com

WITH one day left un­til Amer­i­cans head to the polls in a US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that has drawn un­prece­dented global at­ten­tion, two con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures in Myan­mar have weighed in to en­dorse an equally con­tentious nom­i­nee: Don­ald Trump.

U Wi­rathu, a fire­brand monk based in Man­dalay who has been a lead­ing fig­ure of the Buddhist na­tion­al­ist move­ment in re­cent years, wrote on his Face­book page yes­ter­day, “We Stand With DON­ALD TRUMP.”

More than 1000 Face­book users had re­acted to the post as of yes­ter­day evening, with dozens of peo­ple com­ment­ing. Sev­eral joined U Wi­rathu in ex­press­ing sup­port for Mr Trump, while oth­ers were against the con­tro­ver­sial bil­lion­aire, whose im­prob­a­bly rise as the Repub­li­can Party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee has shat­tered con­ven­tional po­lit­i­cal wis­dom – and made many world lead­ers fear­ful.

“We are Don­ald Trump,” read one com­ment un­der U Wi­rathu’s post.

Mean­while, a prom­i­nent for­mer law­maker also known for cava­lier provo­ca­tions and less-than-tol­er­ant rhetoric, U Hla Swe, told The Myan­mar Times that he too liked the cut of Mr Trump’s jib.

“Trump is a na­tion­al­ist so he is Repub­li­can and I sup­port him. It is not that I ex­pect Trump will help Myan­mar. I just like his stance,” said U Hla Swe, who pre­vi­ously served as an MP for the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party.

Since los­ing his re-elec­tion bid in Novem­ber 2015, U Hla Swe has kept a place in the pub­lic eye as pub­lisher and edi­tor of Bul­let News Jour­nal. The for­mer law­maker earned the moniker “Bul­let” Hla Swe af­ter he sug­gested to fel­low MPs that if eth­nic armed groups did not agree to drop their weapons in favour of ne­go­ti­a­tion, the govern­ment would in­stead use bul­lets on them.

“Ac­tu­ally, I think the Amer­i­can elec­tion doesn’t re­ally af­fect Myan­mar. And only po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Myan­mar have in­ter­est in that, the pub­lic doesn’t,” U Hla Swe said yes­ter­day when asked about his views on the pres­i­den­tial race.

“Don­ald Trump is the Amer­i­can Ma Ba Tha,” he wrote on Face­book yes­ter­day fol­low­ing an in­ter­view with BBC Burmese.

“Our party first of all pri­ori­tises na­tion­al­ism be­cause ac­cord­ing to our coun­try’s sit­u­a­tion, we need to favour na­tion­al­ism. Democ­racy and hu­man rights should be [pri­ori­tised] sec­ond, given our coun­try’s geopol­i­tics,” U Hla Swe said, adding that most fel­low USDP mem­bers he had spo­ken to sim­i­larly pre­ferred Mr Trump for his na­tion­al­ism-first ap­proach.

“I have never heard him men­tion Myan­mar. But he is a na­tion­al­ist so he will get along with the par­ties who pri­ori­tise na­tion­al­ism,” he said.

Mr Trump, whose views on Myan­mar are lit­tle-known, is fac­ing an up­hill bat­tle to win the pres­i­dency if pre-elec­tion polling is to be be­lieved.

His Demo­cratic opponent, for­mer US sec­re­tary of state Hil­lary Clinton, has struck up a per­sonal friend­ship with State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Ms Clinton was in­stru­men­tal in a change to US for­eign pol­icy to­ward Myan­mar that favoured “cal­i­brated en­gage­ment” with the for­mer USDP govern­ment as it sig­nalled open­ness to demo­cratic re­forms when it took power in 2011.

She was a pro­po­nent of US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s broader “pivot” to Asia, which his ad­min­is­tra­tion put for­ward af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2009.

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