Prominent monk U Wirathu has openly endorsed President U Thein Sein's ruling party in the Nov. 8 general election, saying Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party was "full of themselves" and unlikely to win the vote, according to a report by Reuters on October 4.
Hardline monks will push for laws banning Muslim dress and other Muslim customs, Wirathu told Reuters on Sunday before a rally held by thousands of members of the Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, celebrating the passage of four so-called Protection of Race and Religion Laws purporting to protect the Buddhist religion in Myanmar.
Reuters reports the remarks could stoke religious tension, already high in Myanmar after Ma Ba Tha played a big role in securing passage of the four bills, seen as targeting women and the country's Muslim minority.
The group has emerged as a force ahead of the poll, criticizing Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which opposed the four laws.
"NLD people are so full of themselves," U Wirathu, 47, who is a leading ultra-nationalist member of Ma Ba Tha, but does not run the organization, said in an interview with Reuters. "They don't have a high chance of winning in elections."
Experts say pressure on the NLD can translate into support for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
"If we have to choose the best, it is the President Thein Sein's government," Wirathu added. "They could open the doors and work step by step for peace and development."
He denies Ma Ba Thai is campaigning for the USDP.
The Ma Ba Tha has recently attempted to tone down its image, offering a portrayal as a peaceful and apolitical organization. Yet U Wirathu’s comments to Reuters indicates a continued appetite to interfere in politics.