Updated 10:20 AM Jun 09, 2009

BANGKOK - A 2,300-year-old gold-domed pagoda collapsed just three weeks after the wife of the Myanmar junta's top general had helped reconsecrate it with a diamond orb and a sacred golden umbrella.

There is no country in Asia more superstitious than Myanmar, and the collapse is widely seen as portentous. It comes as the junta has put on trial pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The superstitious generals may be consulting astrologers as they decide how to proceed, which is not unusual.

Currency denominations, traffic rules have been changed, the nation's capital has been moved and the timing of events has been selected with astrological dictates in mind. "Astrology has as significant a role in policies, leadership and decision-making as rational calculations, geopolitics and resource economics," said Zarni, a Burmese exile analyst and researcher.

The Danok pagoda was blessed last month in the presence of the wife of the country's supreme leader, Senior General Than Shwe. The government-controlled press was silent when the temple crashed last Saturday. But the news spread fast.

Many saw it as the latest of a series of bad omens for the junta that included a devastating cyclone last year. Its sacred umbrella tumbled to the ground and its diamond orb was lost in the rubble, according to reports.

"The fact that the umbrella did not stay was a sign that more bad things are to come, according to astrologers," said Ms Ingrid Jordt, a Myanmar specialist and anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin. "In a sense, the pagoda repudiated Than Shwe's right to remain ruler." THE NEW YORK TIMES

From TODAY, World – Tuesday, 09-Jun-2009

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