Lost amidst the week’s more high-profile news was something quite significant, at least for those of us keen on Asian affairs: a (relatively) high-level State Department official dropped in on Burma, in order to feel out the ruling junta’s openness to dialogue. Stephen Blake made a rare visit to Naypyidaw, the junta’s somewhat creepy jungle capital and a longtime Microkhan obsession. For those who don’t closely follow Burmese affairs, the nation’s government relocated from Yangon to Naypyidaw a little over three years ago, allegedly on the advice of dictator Than Shwe’s astrologer. Photos like these make the prefab city seem mighty sinister—not too surprising, given that it was built with slave labor.
I reckon an old Asia hand like Mr. Blake is aware of the depths of Than Shwe’s voodoo-tinged paranoia. If so, I wonder if he inspected his Naypyidaw hotel room:
Whenever a UN envoy visits Burma, hotel staff are told to install a strip of a pregnant woman’s sarong or underwear within the ceiling of the VIP’s suite. Traditional Burmese men are often superstitious that coming into contact with women’s undergarments will diminish their hpoun, or manly power.