Myanmar consecrates capital's replica pagoda
Tens of thousands of people joined junta leader Than Shwe in Myanmar's administrative capital Saturday for the consecration of a replica of Yangon's famed Shwedagon Pagoda.
General Than Shwe was joined by his wife and senior members of the military leadership as the replica Uppatasanti Pagoda was adorned with religious objects.
Uppatasanti Pagoda has been under construction since 2006, after the government moved its administrative capital to Naypyidaw, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the economic hub of Yangon, in November 2005.
The new pagoda stands 325 feet (99 metres) high, one foot shorter than the Shwedagon Pagoda, which was built more than 2,500 years ago.
Thousands of people in this predominately Buddhist country have donated precious stones including diamonds, rubies, jade and pearls to adorn the new pagoda, which will be covered in gold foil.
"Many people are still donating their jewellery to the pagoda. Tens of thousands of people attended this morning's ceremony. I have never seen so many people here," a government official who attended the ceremony told AFP.
The consecration ceremony will continue with the hoisting of a diamond orb on top of the pagoda on Sunday, he said.
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. The government has been implementing various building projects in the new capital, in a mountainous area in central Myanmar, since 2002.