It seems like a story you would only hear about in movies, but the story behind Naypyidaw is not from a movie—it’s real and it’s strange.
Naypyidaw is located in Myanmar, deep in the heart of the jungle. In 2002, the military spent billions of dollars to create Naypyidaw, a secret city that was designed to serve as a fortress instead of an actual town. In fact, it’s so secretive, that only a select few people have actually been inside Naypyidaw.
It is rumored that Naypyidaw’s roads were designed to hold tanks instead of cars and that its hills contain bunkers. It’s also rumored that the entire town is connected by underground tunnels, and the entire outside of the town is surrounded by tanks. If you think the government is paranoid, you’re not the only one.
Located 1.9 miles west of Pyinmana, Naypyidaw was built by over 25 construction companies. On November 6, 2005, government ministries were moved from Yangon, the previous capital, to Naypyidaw. It is said that these officials were only give one day’s notice about their move, and they departed very early in the morning. On November 11, 2005, there were 1,100 trucks carrying additional ministries and military battalions to Naypyidaw. Civil servants were simply uprooted without any previous knowledge, and since there weren’t any schools or other amenities available in Naypyidaw, military personnel and servants were separated from their families. It was on this November 11th move that Naypyidaw became the new capital of Myanmar.
Naypyidaw was kept secret from its citizens for many years. Civilians were not allowed to enter Naypyidaw, and vendors were only allowed to enter a small portion of the city to make their deliveries. Even those who had access to the town were thoroughly searched and ID’d to prove their identity.
The New Capital
It was never blatantly shared with the public why the capital was changed from Yangon to Naypyidaw or why the move was kept so secret. Some believe that it has everything to do with military officials being afraid of an attack, so they created a secret city to keep themselves safe. Others believe that the military moved the location so that the capital could be more centrally located. And others believe that Naypyidaw was created because Yangon became too overcrowded and there was no room for it to grow. The rationale is still something that is debated.
In 2011,Than Shwe, the head of state for Myanmar known for his violent abuse and extreme dictatorship, stepped aside.Thein Sein, the new head of state, made a few changes, and Naypyidaw is not as strict or as closed off as it once was. In fact, the city has hotels, residential areas and plenty of shopping for people to enjoy. There are also four separate golf courses. It’s not a place for everyone, though, as it is mainly designed for Myanmar elite. Where Yangon was starting to be overrun by poverty, Naypyidaw is clean and has many amenities for families to spend their time together.
The story behind Naypyidaw is very strange yet very unique. Though the city is blossoming into something more, it will always be known as the capital that moved without its people.
Manuel Johnson encourages you to visit Glovico to learn Burmese. It will prove quite helpful if you decide to visit exotic places in Asia.
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