Burmese officials going AWOL

KHIN MAUNG WIN/AFP/Getty Images The devastating cyclone that hit Burma this weekend, killing perhaps 22,500 people — 40,000 more are still missing — seems to have spared the country’s new administrative capital, Naypyidaw. Deep in the heart of the country’s interior and surrounded by mountainous jungle, the isolated new capital, only unveiled last year, suits ...

595165_080506_burma3.jpg
595165_080506_burma3.jpg

KHIN MAUNG WIN/AFP/Getty Images

The devastating cyclone that hit Burma this weekend, killing perhaps 22,500 people -- 40,000 more are still missing -- seems to have spared the country's new administrative capital, Naypyidaw. Deep in the heart of the country's interior and surrounded by mountainous jungle, the isolated new capital, only unveiled last year, suits the insular military junta just fine. But The Irrawaddy reports that civil servants and military officials, many of whom left family behind in Rangoon, are bucking orders from the junta to stay put. Instead, they've fled to look for lost family members in the cyclone's path:

We left our children in Rangoon, and we should be there with them now," the official said, adding that higher authorities have turned down all requests for leave until after the May 10 referendum.

KHIN MAUNG WIN/AFP/Getty Images

The devastating cyclone that hit Burma this weekend, killing perhaps 22,500 people — 40,000 more are still missing — seems to have spared the country’s new administrative capital, Naypyidaw. Deep in the heart of the country’s interior and surrounded by mountainous jungle, the isolated new capital, only unveiled last year, suits the insular military junta just fine. But The Irrawaddy reports that civil servants and military officials, many of whom left family behind in Rangoon, are bucking orders from the junta to stay put. Instead, they’ve fled to look for lost family members in the cyclone’s path:

We left our children in Rangoon, and we should be there with them now,” the official said, adding that higher authorities have turned down all requests for leave until after the May 10 referendum.

Many of Burma’s bureaucrats have homes in Rangoon, where they lived until the junta suddenly shifted the capital to Naypyidaw in November 2005. Telephone lines and Internet connections in Rangoon, which is still the country’s main commercial center, have been down since Friday.

Military personnel with relatives in the stricken area have also been returning to their homes without permission from their commanding officers.

Perhaps another sign that bungling relief efforts could weaken the junta’s control?

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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