Once there was a forest. And then there was Naypyitaw.
An imperial capital built by the Generals of Myanmar in the middle of nowhere,Naypyitaw or the Abode of the Kings lies some 300 km north of Yangon. Sometime in 2005,the stars were consulted to decide the timing of the move from Yangon. Eleven it had to be,the Generals were told.
So at 11 am on November 11 that year,11 ministries and11 military units in 1,100 trucks set out for Naypyitaw. The other ministries and officials followed later. The capital city,spread over 7,000 sq km and founded in the tradition of great Burmese kings,was formally inaugurated on the Armed Forces Day on March 27,2006.
A 16-lane cement road tapers off to lead to the Presidential Palace on a raised mound Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was accorded a ceremonial welcome on its lawns on Monday morning before he was led inside for talks with President Thein Sein. The palace itself is imperial in scale. Roman columns support the structure and a flight of steps lead to a large porch with a giant chandelier overhead. Behind the doors are 100 rooms. On the grounds,fountains spout a water dance.
There are many explanations about they moved the capital from Yangon to Naypyitaw. Yangon had become too crowded,there was no room to build a capital city. Plus Naypyitaw is the geographical centre of Myanmar, a government official said. Thats the official line but not everyones sure. Some say Yangon,home of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi,was always centre of protests. Others point to the proximity to the sea and fears of an attack.
Officials say the population of Naypyitaw touched 1 million and is growing every year. But roads across the city have little or no traffic. There are very few people on the roads. Barring men astride Chinese mopeds and vans carrying women,the roads are virtually empty,stretching like runways into the vast expanse. Vendors are confined to haat-like markets in the commercial zone. A diplomatic enclave has been created and the government is waiting for missions to move from Yangon.
Not everyone can live in the capital. The military section is out of bounds and residential zones have clear demarcations. Apartment buildings have colour codes,occupancy decided by the jobs and ranks that men and women hold in the government.
Happy to see India develop ties: China
China on Monday sought to dispel the impression that it is averse to seeing India step up engagement with resource-rich Myanmar saying Beijing will be happy to see New Delhi and Naypyitaw developing their relations as it would help regional stability. Both India and Myanmar are Chinas friendly neighbours. China is happy to see the development relations between them, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a press briefing here.