Friday, May 23, 2008



After 46 years of unbroken military rule, many people both inside and outside Myanmar think it will take an act of God to get rid of the generals.

Many of Myanmar's deeply superstitious 53 million people are likely to blame the storm on "bad karma" from the despotism of junta supremo Than Shwe, Burmese and European analysts said on Thursday.


Ironically, the cyclone -- Asia's worst since 143,000 people were killed in Bangladesh in 1991 -- might even end up bolstering Than Shwe's status because of his decision to move the capital to Naypyidaw, 400 kms (250 miles) north of Yangon, in 2005.

At the time everybody thought he was mad, but with 100,000 people feared dead in the Irrawaddy delta, and Yangon strewn with rubble and fallen trees, some might say it was either a very lucky, or very prescient, move.

Whatever the reason, the junta's escape from much of the destruction is only likely to confirm in the minds of its leaders that they have an almost supernatural mandate to continue to run the country.

"It is said that Than Shwe's astrologer told him to move the capital because Rangoon would suffer a calamity," said Derek Tonkin, a former British ambassador to neighboring Thailand.

"So his karma has been saved and it is the people who have suffered, not the generals," he said. "They might all conclude that it was because of his leadership the government was no longer in Yangon and in the path of the cyclone," British academic Robert Taylor said.

"As a command and control centre away from the zone of destruction, it was capable of continuing to operate while the rest of southern Myanmar suffered," he said.

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