Junta’s weird rule by occult
THE fate of the Burmese junta is written in the stars. That, at least, is what the Burmese junta believes. For one of the odder and most revealing aspects of the brutal military gang that rules Burma is its faith in astrology.
When the junta moved the capital from Rangoon to a malarial town deep in the jungle, it did so because an astrologer employed by Senior General Than Shwe had warned him of an impending catastrophe that could only be averted by moving the seat of government. The same astrologer asserted that the most auspicious moment for the move would be November 6 2005, at 6.37am. Sure enough, at that precise hour on the ordained day, the limousines of Burma’s generals started to roll towards their new home on the road to Mandalay.
Burma’s intensely superstitious rulers have long been guided by a belief in cosmology, numerology and magic. The time and date of the ceremony marking independence from Britain was also chosen according to astrological dictates: 4.20am on January 4 1948.
General Ne Win was the mysticismobsessed dictator who seized power in 1962 and steered Burma from prosperity to penury; in 1989 he introduced the 45-kyat and 90-kyat banknotes, for the simple but mind-bending reason that these were divisible by and added up to nine, his lucky number. He also walked backwards over bridges at night to avoid bad luck
Each of the leading clans in the junta has a family astrologer. The army has its own zodiacal experts, but it is a dangerous job: astrologers who make negative predictions are liable to arrest and imprisonment.
The junta’s belief in astrology in part reflects the capricious weirdness of a peculiarly nasty regime, insulated and divorced from reality. Then again, an excessive belief in the supernatural is often the hallmark of a dying dictatorship.— © The Times, London