Sunday Times

Junta’s weird rule by occult

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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

 ?? Picture: AP/PAT ROQUE ?? OUTRAGE: Filipino protesters carry a poster of Myanmar’s military leader Than Shwe at a rally earlier this week
Picture: AP/PAT ROQUE OUTRAGE: Filipino protesters carry a poster of Myanmar’s military leader Than Shwe at a rally earlier this week

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