Magazine article New Internationalist

Burma's Horrorscopes

Magazine article New Internationalist

Burma's Horrorscopes

Article excerpt

We're accustomed to good old-fashioned despots driven by banal desires such as insatiable greed and a lust for power; but add a soupcon of superstition and you have the Burmese junta. These chaps are no ordinary garden variety psychopaths hell-bent on oppressing the populace for personal gain, no... they actually make decisions based on their obsession with the occult.

The decision a few years ago to move the capital from Rangoon to a malaria and snake-infested swamp in the highlands was apparently at the behest of head dictator Than Shwe's fortune teller - rumoured to be a deaf-mute soothsayer nicknamed 'ET' because of her resemblance to the famous extraterrestrial.

And the trend is not peculiar to the current ruling 'State Peace and Development Council' (SPDC). In the late 1980s, former military dictator Ne Win invalidated the 100 kyat note and replaced the currency with 45 and 90 kyat bills instead (any number divisible by 9 is said to be auspicious); thus wiping out many people's savings in one fell swoop and prompting a wave of public protests. …

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