The military junta ruling Myanmar, formerly Burma, has announced that the country's capital will move from Yangon to the town of Pyinmana.

The town is located in a mountainous region about 320 kilometres north of the current capital of Yangon, formerly Rangoon. That city had been the capital since the country achieved independence from Britain in 1948.

Staff of the Myanmar commerce, foreign, home affairs and post office and telecommunication departments began moving their offices to Pyinmana on Sunday, though housing for them has not yet been completed.

"The authorities have chosen Pyinmana because it is centrally located and has quick access to all parts of the country," Myanmar's information minister, Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan, told Agence France-Presse.

There has also been speculation that the capital is moving so that it would be in a more secure location in case of attack. Kyaw Hsan would not say when the move will be finished.

Military officials have ruled Burma, and then Myanmar, since the early 1960s.

In 1990, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party won general elections. However, military officials refused to hand over power to her National League for Democracy.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been kept under house arrest at her home in Yangon for much of the past 10 years.

Myanmar is not the only country in southeast Asia to move capitals recently. South Korea announced a similar decision in August 2004.

Its leaders are relocating their capital from Seoul to Kongju, partly to relieve development pressure in the Seoul area and partly to make sure government operations are not located near the border with its often-hostile neighbour, North Korea.