Thieving spree as Naypyidaw building halts

Unemployed construction workers in Burma’s capital have reportedly gone on a thieving spree, selling off equipment and tools as building projects grind to a halt.

Thousands of labourers have been employed since 2002 to build Naypyidaw, which was chosen in a shock decision by then ruler Than Shwe, supposedly aided by fortune tellers, to become the new administrative capital of Burma.

The bulk of the relocation from Rangoon took place in 2006 while the city was still in its skeletal form. Work on the new parliament building finished late last year, and accommodation for civil servants soon after. Many buildings however remain inhabitable.

One resident told DVB that the thieving spree began after labourers got wind of the fact that work was ending. He claims the workers were told by government officials that they could sell off the equipment.

“Right now all the government constructions have stopped but private ones are still continuing,” he said. “The workers were arrested when they stole material from the private construction site.”

The suspension of construction was announced in late July by government officials, who cited a slash in the budget for work on the capital. Many of the companies, such as Max Myanmar, that are running the show there are headed by government-friendly business tycoons who often need little bidding for contracts.

Police in Naypyidaw have suggested that thefts increased after officials cracked down on gambling, which is illegal in the capital.

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