One of the creepiest things about Burma’s ruling junta is its insistence on creating the trappings of prosperity, even as the vast majority of the nation grapples with desperate economic circumstances. Take the recent Yangon Auto Show, which followed the Western blueprint to a T with scantily-clad models draped across shiny new vehicles. Yet the cars on display were little more than symbols of Burma’s foolish economic policies, which stress self-sufficiency to an absurd degree:
Ko Sai, the owner of Myanma Arrman (Strength) Automobile Manufacturing Company, said Chariot automobiles, jointly manufactured by Japan’s Mitsubishi and China’s Tang Fung companies, have been imported for sale by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Myanma Arrman.
“It is just like the Suzuki model manufactured by the Ministry of Industry No. 2. We bought car parts from factories in China and then reassembled them in the Shwe Pyi Thar industrial zone in Rangoon. Nice design and reasonable price attracts the customers,” Ko Sai said.
He said the Chariot MVP car comes in three price ranges: 63 million kyat (US $63,000), 58 million and 53 million.
Yes, you read that right: the cheapest Chariot MVP retails for more than most Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars, largely because Burma’s trade laws bar the import of most fully assembled vehicles. And the government is serious about preventing the smuggling of cars across the border with Thailand, punishing miscreants with instant confiscation. Never mind that this policy is apparently killing valuable trade and driving up food prices—all that matters to the junta is that the nation’s vehicles can plausibly carry the “Made in Burma” tag. Madness.