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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 17:26 GMT
Burma begins move to new capital
By Kylie Morris
BBC News, Bangkok

Burma's military government has begun its move to a new administrative capital Pyinmana, in the jungle 600km (373 miles) north of Rangoon.

According to sources in Rangoon, convoys of trucks laden with personnel and equipment left on Sunday morning.

There was little warning for the hundreds of officials who left bound for their new workplace amid mountains and fields on the road to Mandalay.

Pyinmana has been the pet project of the military government for many years.

But construction is thought to have begun in earnest only 12 months ago.

It is believed the compound, which occupies 10 sq km (4.6 sq miles), is designed to include homes for military leaders, diplomatic quarters, a parliamentary building, an airport, golf course and other buildings to accommodate the bureaucrats.

They have not been allowed to take along their families.

Ten ministries began the long trip north at the weekend, but many more are expected to follow.

Fortune tellers

The reasons for the move are unclear.

Some analysts point to a paranoia among senior military figures that they might come under attack, potentially from the United States, and that a location further from the coast is strategically safer.

It certainly puts the generals closer to their frontline forces within the Shan, Chin and Karen states.

Others suggest the military leaders are simply repeating the habits of the Burmese kings in pre-colonial times who built new towns and palaces on the advice of fortune tellers.

Whatever their motivation, the construction of the new capital sends a powerful signal - that the government is centralising its authority and strengthening its control.

While the military is on the move, the woman who was once its greatest threat, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest in Rangoon, with no indication of when she will be released.


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