`Burma has a long history of being a five-letter word for bizarre. Its last military dictator, Ne Win, insisted that every denomination of the Burmese currency be divisible by his lucky number nine.
His successor and current regime leader, Senior General Than Shwe, is known to be equally superstitious.
Many Rangoon-based western diplomats take seriously the urban legend that Than Shwe’s family astrologer predicted an American invasion three years ago, prompting the reclusive dictator to begin building the new capital 400 kilometres inland.
Tough talk from US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who labelled Burma an outpost of tyranny, may have sped the process and the paranoia.
Late last week, after months of dithering, civil servants were abruptly instructed to begin moving north to occupy their new ministries.
The reluctant were motivated by a high level edict that all government workers are henceforth banned from resigning, making them, in effect, slaves to the state.’