“We’re getting off…” (1)
That is how hundreds of governmental staff members yelled on one winter morning.
Or some just yelled: “Let’s set off!” (2) while others, “Triumphed!” (3)
Why did they yell such words?
6:37 AM, Sunday, November 6, 2005
The civil servants relocated to Nay Pyi Taw on this very day, yelling, “We’re getting off. Let’s set off. [We] triumphed!” while leaving Yangon.
Five days later, the unusual series of numbers prevailed. A total of 11 regiments and 11 ministries relocated to Nay Pyi Taw accompanied by 1,100 military vehicles at exact 11 am, November 11.
No one would wonder before that the city in the central mountain ranges of Myanmar just two miles west of Pyinmana would become the future capital of Myanmar in the 2000s.
Pyinmana has a long history – the place where the Burma Independence Army was headquartered and also where the Burma Communist Party launched a comeback resistance.
It was curious that the then government built a new capital at such a place. They invested millions of kyat in their new city while the citizens were deprived.
The origin of Nay Pyi Taw dates back to 2001.
Rumour has it that there was a stake-driving ceremony where nine gold bricks were erected as the foundations of some structure at 9:18 am on the full moon day of Tazaungmone in 2002. But the people had no idea it was the beginning of Nay Pyi Taw.
Similarly the government staff members did not know about it; even when they transferred on November 6, they did not know the name of the place they were heading at first.
The former information minister Brigadier-General Kyaw San held a four-minute press conference the next day and declared that the governmental departments had been transferred to Pyinmana area. The name “Nay Pyi Taw” was not mentioned.
It was officially announced on the Armed Forces’ Day on March 27, 2006, that the new seat of the government was named “Nay Pyi Taw”.
No one had any knowledge of the new capital until then, and the whole project was seemingly kept secret.
In reality, Nay Pyi Taw was more like a reminiscence of the history than a secret project.
Prime Minister U Nu called the Sixth Buddhist Council in attempt of propagating Buddhism. He also tried to render Buddhism the state’s religion.
Dictator Ne Win built the Gabaraye Maha Wizaya Pagoda and pardoned the prisoners on the day the umbrella was hoisted atop the pagoda.
Than Shwe built a whole new city and bested his predecessors.
The three statues of the kings Anawrahta, Bayintnaung and Alaung Phaya [the founding fathers of ancient Myanmar kingdoms] at the parade ground and the Uppatasanti Pagoda, the replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda, were erected in the sense that Myanmar is in its fourth era.
Nay Pyi Taw is full of historical footprints, astrological influences and rituals.
The 31 ministerial offices are believed to resemble the 31 planes of existence (4) [the realms of beings in the Buddhist cosmology]. They are placed in the shape of a scorpion’s claw, which design was said to be influenced by some sort of ritual.(5)
Also the Lay Gyun Mandai Pyilonechantha Pagoda at the Chaungmagyi Dam north of Nay Pyi Taw is believed to be the capital’s spiritual manifestation. (6)
The government has relocated to Nay Pyi Taw – the capital built in accord with the beliefs of the ancient kings – on November 6 (Sunday).
The 2008 Constitution describes Nay Pyi taw as the country’s capital.
The Nay Pyi Taw City Development Law was ratified on December 29, 2009, and the town building works started officially.
November 7 (Sunday), 2010
The general election took place on November 7 (Sunday), 2010, five years after the seat of government moved to Nay Pyi Taw. The election date was announced on August 13 (Saturday).
The plan to move to Nay Pyi Taw started on November 6 (Sunday). The first election in 20 years was held on Sunday, five years and one day after the movement to Nay Pyi Taw.
The military generals-controlled Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won the election. Indeed, that election was not a fierce competition. It was won through advance voting. The election was therefore described by the international community as window dressing.
On August 11, 2009, one year before the election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's detention was extended for three more years with intent to ensure that she missed the election. Her house arrest was extended after John Yettaw's illegal entry into her house compound.
They released Daw Aung San Suu Kyi after assuring that they won the election and that they were on the safe side. She was pardoned on November 13, 2010, one week after the election.
Later on, the cold relations between the international community and Myanmar began to melt in Novembers.
The then-US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, visited Nay Pyi Taw on November 28, 2011. President Obama paid the first historic visit to Myanmar on November 12, 2012. His second visit to Nay Pyi Taw was also on November 13, 2014.
November 8, 2015 (Sunday)
The election will take place on November 8. The event coincides with the tenth founding anniversary of Nay Pyi Taw. The government started moving on Sunday, November 6, 2005. The military government transformed itself into a quasi-civilian one on November 7 (Sunday), 2010, after the controversial election results.
We have to wait and see what will happen on November 8 (Sunday) this year. On October 13, the Union Election Commission (UEC) tried to postpone the election, citing the natural disaster as the reason but to no avail. Late in the evening, the UEC had to announce that the election would take place on November 8 as previously scheduled.
The reason might be not because the political parties showed their objection but because they did not want to cancel a Sunday of November as they had planned.
Still, the faulty voter lists have not been corrected. For the Myanmar citizens living abroad, they tend to believe that their rights of a citizen are being violated and that their advance votes are being abused on a basis of electoral frauds and vote rigging.
Traditionally, the month of November has experienced both good things and bad things in Myanmar's political history. But the Sundays of November after 2005 saw more confusion.
Although the government unilaterally moved to Nay Pyi Taw on November 6, 2005, the capital has not yet met the characteristics of a city. Millions of kyats have been spent but the capital is dubbed a ghost city, sham city or lifeless city. Moreover, Nay Pyi Taw Expressway is known as "Death Highway" due to many deaths resulting from frequent road accidents.
The November 7 of 2010 is simple. On that day, they produced the result they wanted in an unfair manner. No reforms and changes were seen as much as expected. Today, the people are hungry for change.
The November 8 in 2015 will be a competition between the people and those who like the November Sunday. If the contest is fair and square, the people will celebrate the victory. If there is no justice, tragedy will strike Nay Pyi Taw together with its tenth anniversary. Nay Pyi Taw itself would become the capital whose construction tasks have never finished although people go there to live.
1) Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma Tyrant by Benedict Rogers and Jerery Woodreum.
2) Abrupt relocation of Burma capital linked to astrology by Richard Paddock, 1st January 2006, Los Angeles Times.
3) The Robot City (Okka Ko Ko) 7 Day News Journal, No 47, Vol 12.
4) A Ghost City (Aung Khin and Kyaw Kyaw Thein), VOA, Radio Article.
5) 6) RFA radio article by Aung Thu Nyein based on Naypyidaw: The New Capital of Burma by Dulyapak Preecharushh.