Known for logging and sugarcane and floating on the outskirts of Naypyitaw, Pyinmana, is significant for several reasons.
In World War II, it was the base of the Burma Independence Army. Officers trained in Pyinmana, including General Aung San. In 2005, Senior General Than Shwe began the task of relocating the capital city from Yangon to Naypyitaw. Pyinmana now forms one of Naypyitaw’s eight townships.
At 5pm on Sunday, Kan Oo school in Pyinmana was set to write the next chapter in the town’s proud history: counting the votes in this year’s historic election. Union Election Commission polling staff and election observers started with the box holding advance votes.
A Special Election Police officer guarded Kan Oo school. He was one of more than 40,000 extra police trained for the elections. These police officers were distinguished from others, by their red epaulettes.
As UEC polling staff and observers were ushered inside, the policeman took a seat on a wooden stool at the front of the classroom, and lit a cheroot to smoke.
The classroom was filled with some 30 people–UEC polling staff wearing white vests embossed with the UEC logo; teachers, distinctive from their green tamein (Burmese dress), and around 20 volunteer observers.
The first box of ballot papers was placed in front of a UEC staff member. The silence in the room was deafening.
He reached for the first paper, and opened its envelope delicately. Everyone had their eyes fixed on him. He called out the first ballot paper in a forbidding tone, then turned the paper around to us before handing it over to a teacher. Transparency was in overdrive.
As one Twitter account posted Tuesday asked, would events since Sunday’s vote finally convince the cynics?
Myanmar’s 8 November elections will go into the history of the country’s political development.
On Sunday, Pyinmana continued to feature in that incredible story.
Olivia Cable is a lecturer in the Department of International Relations, Yangon University, and a research assistant in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, the Australian National University.
This article forms part of New Mandala’s ‘Myanmar and the vote‘ series.