Tourist injured as home-made bomb explodes in Yangon hotel

Aung San Suu Kyi urges public not to panic after US tourist is injured in one of a series of unexplained explosions to rock Myanmar

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 3:01am


An explosion that injured a foreign guest in a hotel in Myanmar's main city was caused by a homemade bomb placed in her room, police said yesterday.

It was one of a series of unexplained explosions, and the government alleged that the perpetrators were trying to tarnish the country's new image.

These are deliberate acts to create panic, but the people should be cautious not to fall into the trap
Aung San Suu Kyi

Police officer Myint Htwe said three suspects were detained in relation to the blast, which happened at around midnight on Monday at the Traders Hotel in Yangon. It wounded a 43-year-old American and blew out the window of her ninth floor room. Her husband and two children were not harmed.

It was the most high-profile of the recent blasts, which included two before dawn yesterday in the Mandalay region. One media report said the blasts had killed at least two people and injured several others.

Small bombings occurred frequently when Myanmar was under 50 years of military rule and were most often blamed on armed exiled groups or ethnic rebels. But they have become rare since the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011, made sweeping reforms and ended the house arrest of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who became opposition leader in parliament.

"These are deliberate acts to create panic, but the people should be cautious not to fall into the trap," Suu Kyi said in the capital, Naypyidaw. She said it was important for authorities "to urgently expose the perpetrators".

The explosion at the 22-storey Traders Hotel shot shards of thick glass more than 30 metres into the street. The device was apparently placed in the bathroom, where it scattered towels, toiletries and a red purse.

Witnesses saw blood on the woman's arm and below her waist as she was taken to a Yangon hospital. Her children, aged five and seven, were sleeping in another room and did not witness the blast.

A dozen police and heavily armed soldiers with a sniffer dog entered the hotel soon after the explosion.

Traders general manager Phillip Couvaras said the hotel was working with authorities to investigate what happened.

The Traders Hotel is owned by Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok's Shangri-La Asia. Kuok controls Kerry Group, which is the biggest shareholder in SCMP Group, publisher of the South China Morning Post.

Despite the rapid changes in Myanmar since 2011, many activists and rights groups say dissent is still frequently stifled.

Thein Sein's government has struggled to end a civil war with Kachin rebels and curb rising anti-Muslim violence that has killed hundreds of minority Rohingya Muslims and displaced nearly 150,000 more in the predominantly Buddhist country since last year.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia that the bombings may be timed to coincide with Myanmar becoming the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Someone or some organisation" wants to "make the international community misunderstand the situation of stability and peace in Myanmar", he said.