Welcome to Naypyidaw, Madam Secretary Skip to main content

Welcome to Naypyidaw, Madam Secretary


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her historic 3-day trip to Myanmar this week, the first high-level U.S. official to visit the country in roughly half a century. Unlike her diplomatic predecessors, however, Clinton touched down not in Yangon, the historic captial of the country once known as Burma, but in Naypyidaw, the new seat of government.

Clinton's visit marks a sharp change in U.S. policy, as the Obama administration begins its strategic move to Asia and amid signals from Myanmar's leaders that democratic openness may, in fact, finally be coming to the long-isolated country. As Jim Della-Giacoma wrote in Foreign Policy in October, "After 20 years without a parliament and democratic process, its new leaders are now showing a surprising impatience with the status quo and are changing the way this country is ruled."

But signs of the military junta's authoritarian imprint abound. Naypyidaw, or "abode of kings," the pronunciation-defying administrative seat of Myanmar's government, was only a glimmer in the junta's eye as recently as 2005, when construction began in a remote mountain jungle. By the middle of the next year, the capital -- much of it reportedly built underground -- was racing toward completion, when all of a sudden everything from file cabinets to government employees were trucked virtually overnight to the new site (on an auspicious date, allegedly proscribed by former senior leader Gen. Than Shwe's personal astrologer). Today, the partially completed capital boasts both sprawling temples and deserted streets, massive administrative buildings and empty public squares. 

Above, a smiling Clinton walks from her airplane upon her arrival in the capital on Nov. 30.

Above, Clinton's motorcade drives through Naypyidaw on Nov. 30. Traffic is not a problem in the capital, which the junta claims is home to nearly a million people. Visitors have described the city as "vacant," despite the forced re-location of civil servants to the town.  

Above, people offer prayers at the newly-completed Uppatasaniti Pagoda in Naypyidaw on Jan. 30, as the country's capital prepared for the opening of the national parliament. At precisely 8.55 am on Jan. 31,  hundreds of uniformed soldiers and over 1,000 elected lawmakers gathered in the capital for the inauguration of the country's parliament. Following the 2010 election, marred by the absence of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and claims of cheating and intimidation, the junta enjoyed an overwhelming majority in parliament.

Women walk inside the newly-completed Uppatasaniti Pagoda in Naypyidaw on Jan. 30, 2011. The pagoda is a replica of the famed Shwedagon Pagoda in the historic capital, Yangon.

Above, members of the Myanmar Parliament attend proceedings at the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw on Aug. 22. Myanmar's President Thein Sein said his government was ready to work with the international community in a speech at the opening of the current parliamentary session, a recent sign that the authoritarian nation is finally seeking to end its decades of diplomatic isolation from the West.

Above, a worker pauses on the construction site of the new parliament building in 2006. The capital is considered by some to be one of the world's fastest-growing cities.  

The newly-built Uppatasani pagoda in Naypyidaw on March 26, 2010.

Above, the gateway to a massive housing complex for Myanmar's military leaders soars above a deserted highway on May 23, 2008.

An aerial view of housing units in Naypyidaw on May 23, 2008. 

Buddhist monks in Pyinmana, on the outskirts of the country's new capital on March 26, 2010. 

Workers sweep the steps in front of a water fountain in Naypyidaw on Jan. 30. 

Policemen at a check-point on the road leading to the national parliament. In the background, shuttle buses carry members of parliament to the newly completed compound on Jan. 31.

Guards of honor parade during a ceremony in the capital on Feb.12. The same day, Myanmar's junta chief told people to safeguard the country's new "democracy" -- a day after parliament approved a cabinet packed with retired military officers. Former Senior Gen. Than Shwe called for people to "tackle any forms of disruptions to the new system."

The vast parliament building, now completed, stands in an area once dominated by jungle. 


Popular posts from this blog

Chronology of the Press in Burma

1836 – 1846 * During this period the first English-language newspaper was launched under British-ruled Tenasserim, southern  Burma . The first ethnic Karen-language and Burmese-language newspapers also appear in this period.     March 3, 1836 —The first English-language newspaper,  The Maulmain Chronicle , appears in the city of Moulmein in British-ruled Tenasserim. The paper, first published by a British official named E.A. Blundell, continued up until the 1950s. September 1842 —Tavoy’s  Hsa-tu-gaw  (the  Morning Star ), a monthly publication in the Karen-language of  Sgaw ,  is established by the Baptist mission. It is the first ethnic language newspaper. Circulation reached about three hundred until its publication ceased in 1849. January 1843 —The Baptist mission publishes a monthly newspaper, the Christian  Dhamma  Thadinsa  (the  Religious Herald ), in Moulmein. Supposedly the first Burmese-language newspaper, it continued up until the first year of the second Angl

Thai penis whitening trend raises eyebrows

Image copyright LELUXHOSPITAL Image caption Authorities warn the procedure could be quite painful A supposed trend of penis whitening has captivated Thailand in recent days and left it asking if the country's beauty industry is taking things too far. Skin whitening is nothing new in many Asian countries, where darker skin is often associated with outdoor labour, therefore, being poorer. But even so, when a clip of a clinic's latest intriguing procedure was posted online, it quickly went viral. Thailand's health ministry has since issued a warning over the procedure. The BBC Thai service spoke to one patient who had undergone the treatment, who told them: "I wanted to feel more confident in my swimming briefs". The 30-year-old said his first session of several was two months ago, and he had since seen a definite change in the shade. 'What for?' The original Facebook post from the clinic offering the treatment, which uses lasers to break do

Myanmar Villagers Tell of 150 Homes Burned in Deadly Army Air Attacks

Artillery fire and aerial bombardments by Myanmar forces killed three civilians and burned scores of houses in their communities in mid-March amid fighting between Myanmar forces and the rebel Arakan Army in war-ravaged Rakhine state, villagers recounted Monday at a press conference. Villagers from Kyauktaw township in western Myanmar's Rakhine state discuss the government military's attacks on their communities at press conference in Sittwe, March 30, 2020. They made the comments after traveling from in Kyauktaw township to the state capital Sittwe to give testimony on a series of attacks on civilian dwellings amid a government-imposed internet shutdown in nine townships in Rakhine and neighboring Chin state, cutting off vital information about the fighting. They villagers accused the Myanmar Army of conducting an aerial bombing on civilian communities that destroyed about 150 homes and a monastery in Pyaing Taing village, while government soldiers on the g