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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Burma's new capital city unveiled
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Naypyidaw

Burma junta leader Than Shwe salutes troops on Armed Forces Day, in the shadow of statues of Burma kings, in the new capital Naypyidaw on 27 March 2007
Journalists caught a rare glimpse of Burma's military leader Than Shwe
Burma's military rulers have been showing off their new capital for the first time to the outside world.

The new city, called Naypyidaw, or Abode of Kings, is being built about 460km (300 miles) north of the old capital, Rangoon.

Until now few outsiders were allowed to go there, but the foreign media has been invited to the capital to watch the huge Armed Forces Day parade.

However, it is still not clear why the generals have moved here.

The rutted and overcrowded roads of Burma suddenly give way to smooth eight-lane motorways as you approach the new capital.


Naypyidaw is being built on a vast and extravagant scale in hundreds of square kilometres of tropical scrubland.

Shining new buildings rise out of tropical scrub like a mirage, separated by miles of broad highways and boulevards.

Hardline message

Everywhere there is construction going on, much of it being done by manual labour.

But even after two years all that has been finished are the ministry buildings, hotels and some clusters of pastel-coloured apartment blocks.

The apartments are being developed for all government employees, who were forced to uproot from the former capital Rangoon and move here a year-and-a-half ago.

There is reliable electricity and water.

But they complain that the city lacks shops and restaurants. Many have refused to bring their families.

The military has built itself a fortress-like complex to the east. This is where Burma's reclusive leader, General Than Shwe, now lives.

This morning we had a rare glimpse of him reviewing thousands of parading troops on Armed Forces Day.

He appeared frail but delivered a familiar, hardline message warning the soldiers to be ever vigilant against foreign powers he said were bent on weakening the country - a reference to US and European pressure for democratic reform.

Secure in its remote new capital, the military still shows no signs of loosening its grip on Burma.

Rare video images from inside Burma

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