The ASEAN Summit which was recently held in Myanmar and attended by world leaders brought to attention the capital city of Myanmar – Nay Pyi Taw. Showcasing new government buildings, beautifully manicured parks, golf courses and housing developments, it looks like any other modern day city, except there’s no one there.
Nay Pyi Taw is located 320 kilometres north of the previous capital Yangon. The name translates to “royal capital” or “seat of the king”. President Than Shwe lives in the city that seems to exist purely for government workers, military and police.
Its 20 lane super highway is deserted, large public buildings seem to sit empty and the city is divided up into zones. There is a military-only zone said to consist of tunnels and bunkers and off limits to the public, a ministry zone home to the headquarters of Myanmar’s government ministries and a residential zone where apartments are allotted according to rank and marital status and the roofs of apartments colour coded by the jobs of their residents.
The government claims more than one million people live here but they’re very hard to find. It is one of the few cities in this country with uninterrupted electricity and rare white elephants — brought in as a tourist attraction.
However drive just 10 minutes out of the capital and the real Myanmar emerges. The super highways are replaced by narrow dirt roads, roadside stalls and poverty in complete contrast to the opulent yet soulless and sterile supersized capital.