Ghosts in Burma

At precisely 6:37 a.m. last Sunday, according to one account – with a shout of “Let’s go!” – a convoy of trucks began a huge, expensive and baffling transfer of the government of Myanmar from the capital to a secret mountain compound 200 miles to the north.

Diplomats and foreign analysts were left groping a week later for an explanation of the unannounced move. In a country as secretive and eccentric as Myanmar, it is a full-time job to try to tease the truth from the swirl of rumors and guesswork, relying on few facts and many theories. (NYT)

Over 1200 years ago, the Japanese Emperor moved his capital from the unfinished Nagaoka-kyo to the site of present day Kyoto to escape from the vengeful ghost of a falsely accused prince. It would seem that Burma’s military government has just done the same thing.

While many experts consider this move to be a strategic relocation to a seat of government from which they can more easily suppress peasant rebellions, the bizarre secrecy and inexplicable suddenness of the move have given rise to two competing theories about the reasons behind the move.

First, like Japan’s Kanmu Emperor, to secure a location more suitable to the channeling of the beneficient energies derived from Chinese geomantic superstitions known as fung-shui.

“Myanmar leaders might have sought astrologers’ advice and believe the move can improve Myanmar’s feng shui [the Chinese belief in energy flows depending on wind and water] of Myanmar” U King said.

“Myanmar leaders are strong believers in feng shui. When Ne Win ruled Myanmar [from the 1960s to the 1980s], he considered relocating the capital for the sake of feng shui,” U King said. (Taipei Times)

Second, to fortify themselves against an imagined attack by the Americans.

Seen from their perspective, the notion of an American invasion might not seem far-fetched. They are a ruling clique of soldiers whose background is jungle warfare and who know little of the outside world.
In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice included Myanmar in a list of “outposts of tyranny,” along with North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe and Belarus.
“The joke going around is, ‘After diamonds, gold,’ ” he said. In the Burmese language, “sein” – as in Saddam Hussein – means diamonds. “Shwe” – as in Gen. Than Shwe, the leader of the military junta – means gold. (NYT)

Burma’s rulers seem to be spooked by things that go bump in the night, but exactly which ghosts are they so scared of?

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