< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: As Scrutiny Grows, Burma Moves Its Capital

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

As Scrutiny Grows, Burma Moves Its Capital

From the Washington Post, an article about the decision of the ruling military junta in Burma to move the capital. Many speculate that the move was decided upon in order to further isolate the nation from outside scrutiny and pressure for democratic reforms. From the article:

Military trucks rumble up in front of Rangoon's ministries several times a week and workers lug ancient desks, chairs and filing cabinets to the waiting vehicles. The convoys depart at daybreak on a 12-hour journey along roads badly rutted and pocked, then return for another load.
Burma's military rulers are rapidly transferring the country's century-old capital from Rangoon to the desolate, rocky terrain of Pyinmana about 200 miles to the north, aiming to empty most offices by the end of next month...Few in Rangoon can fathom the motives for the abrupt move, which began Nov. 6. Most observers and even some government officials say they suspect it was solely the brainchild of Gen. Than Shwe, the secretive head of Burma's ruling military junta. Some have speculated that government fears of a U.S. invasion are to blame for the move, or perhaps civil unrest or even the prophesies of a soothsayer.
Whatever the reason, the impact is clear. The move further isolates the government at a time when demands are mounting at the United Nations for the release of the imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Burma's neighbors are expressing impatience with the country's lack of democratic reform, and the Bush administration is campaigning to bring the issue before the U.N. Security Council.
Burma's gradual retreat from contact with the outside world began in October 2004, when Than Shwe fired his prime minister, Gen. Khin Nyunt, and ordered his arrest, ostensibly for corruption. While Khin Nyunt had been head of military intelligence, some Asian governments regarded him as a moderating force on the issue of democratic change.
He was also the rulers' main interlocutor with foreign governments and agencies. With his removal, the government purged several allied cabinet ministers who had experience working with the United Nations. Since then, Burma also has tightened travel restrictions on foreigners and threatened to withdraw from the International Labor Organization over its criticisms. The former British colony has been controlled since 1988 by the military junta, which refused to accept the results of 1990 legislative elections in which Suu Kyi and her party won in a landslide.

Click here to read the full article.

Also check out U.S. Sees Burma as 'Test Case' in Southeast Asia from the Washington Post

--Tom Hayes


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