In Myanmar, a trait that tends to cut across both ethnic and religious lines is superstition. This weekend in Dalah (a fishing town a short river ferry ride away from downtown Yangon), the 2,300-year-old Danok Pagoda collapsed, killing at least 6 people, and injuring many more. Some are still missing, buried beneath the rubble.

State media did not report this calamity and the Press Censorship Board trashed any mention in the private journals.

What intrigues many people is that on 7 May 2009, Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s wife Daw Kyaing Kyaing, several of her children, Daw Khin Khin Win, wife of Prime Minister Thein Sein, and other family members of top generals, re-opened the pagoda. It had been closed for a year of reconstruction after the damage caused by Cyclone Nargis.

Daw Kyaing Kyaing donated and placed the diamond and jewel encrusted hti, the seinbudaw (diamond orb), and the hngetmyatnadaw (pennant-shaped vane), atop the uppermost part of the pagoda.

Discussions with taxicab drivers and colleagues this morning ran along the following lines:

  • “Bad omen for Than Shwe and the rest of the tatmadaw!
  • Obviously its because Kyaing Kyaing has bad merit. She has very much a lot of akuso (bad virtue; vice; negative karma)! Don’t you remember the thunderstorms that happened after they started shooting the monks in September 2007? Same like that!”
  • “This must be a sign about the decision for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and John Yettaw’s trial this week”