Myanmar’s new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw is a strange, half-deserted place. A city of wide spaces occupied by few people, and of vast highways without any traffic. Look it up online, and you will see Nay Pyi Taw referred to as a ‘ghost town’. But the reality is more intriguing than this: because if it is a ghost town, Nay Pyi Taw is a ghost town without ghosts.
I’ve just had an article published over on the BBC Travel website about the military operation to remove the ghosts from the town of Nay Pyi Taw. A couple of years ago, I headed up to Nay Pyi Taw to interview a captain from the Burmese army about the operation. And (the wheels of the BBC turn slowly), the piece has just been published today. It is a fascinating story at the convergence of the modern Burmese state, military bureaucracy, Buddhism, and supernatural belief. Here’s the opening passage:
Captain Aung Khant, of the Burmese army, leaned back in his pink plastic chair. He was a handsome man in his 40s with a relaxed military bearing. We had just met, and I was immediately intrigued by him.
“There are some people like Whoopi Goldberg who are close to ghosts,” he said. He pulled on his cigarette and smiled, gauging my reaction. “They are ordinary people, but they have a special ability. They can tell the spirits it’s time to move.”
I double-checked with my translator. “Whoopi Goldberg?” I asked. The translator nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Whoopi Goldberg.”
You can read the article here: What happened to Myanmar’s ghosts?
Image Credit: DiverDave on Wikimedia commons.