Shwe Mann ‘coup’ no cause for concern in the streets of Myanmar’s capital.
“I heard about Shwe Mann when my department was having a social event. We were curious about what was happening,” one public servant told me in Naypyitaw.
We were talking about the ousting of the ruling party’s chairman by Thein Sein a little over 10 days ago.
But while the world watched this supposed ‘coup’ with bated breath, quickening at the thought of how it could derail the nation’s delicate dance to democracy, locals in the country’s capital were a little more nonplussed.
This was particularly so with Naypyidawrians outside the government machinery.
Shwe Mann’s former constituency is Zabu Thiri Township, which he won in the 2010 elections. Geographically, Zabu Thiri Township is at the heart of Naypyitaw. And at the heart of the township lies Tha Pyay Gone market, Shwe Mann’s ‘local’ market.
Yet in the wake of a dramatic few weeks in politics, life goes on much as it had before inside his local marketplace.
Consumers ride in on their motorcycles and traders unload fruit and vegetables from small vehicles. Over in the hoop-shaped-concrete-flamingo-pink-complex, there are an abundance of goods for sale: bedding, household goods, jewellery, luggage, footwear, clothing, mobile phones and condoms.
Over in the traditional style complex, sewing machines spin at a frantic pace.
On the northwestern side of the market are a plethora of teashops. Tables are flanked with patrons: young couples, middle-aged public servants and tourists, tucking into mohingya, Burmese rice, fried snacks and sweet Burmese tea.
As one stallholder explains. “I don’t have much to say about Shwe Mann. But if you want to know about politics, I can tell you about farmers trying to reclaim their land.”
His views are illustrative of so many from Myanmar, whose lives are more focused on immediate hand-to-mouth concerns, rather than broader national political activities.
Those immediate needs are no more acute than in the current flood crisis, said to be the worst in a generation. Indeed, Naypyidawrians have been part of the flood response in their own ways.
As one stallholder explains, “We collected 320,000 kyat [US $250] in 10 days. I personally gave 80,000 kyat (US $62), as well as oil and rice. The money and supplies were delivered to Magway Region.”
Over in one of Naypyitaw’s ministries, a civil servant explains how funds have been raised between work colleagues.
“Our country is suffering from a humanitarian disaster. We must help our nation.”
Myanmar has waited a long time for historic elections. For those about to cast their ballots, there are many long days of day-to-day life to get through before 8 November.
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.