Myanmar police chief says bombings were aimed at deterring foreign investors

Police chief says a rebel-linked businessman lured a man into leaving a bomb in luxury hotel in return for the promise of a goldmine permit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 2:09am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 2:09am


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Bombings that have rocked Myanmar in the last week were aimed at scaring away foreign investors, the national police chief said yesterday in the commercial capital, where a blast at a luxury hotel wounded an American woman.

There have been nine explosions in five regions of the country which left three people dead and 10 others injured.

Police chief Zaw Win said the bombers - allegedly linked to a single person or organisation - were unhappy with economic reforms that followed a half-century of military rule and isolation.

"The main target of the bombings was to stop foreign involvement in the local market economy," the police chief said. "We have confirmed that all [bombs] are made locally and used by the single person or organisation."

He said a businessman tied to the Karen National Union ethnic rebel group allegedly promised 25-year-old Saw Myint Lwin - now in police custody - a goldmine permit if he successfully planted bombs at luxury hotels and restaurants.

Saw Myint Lwin, one of eight people arrested in connection with the attacks, was given US$500, a bag of locally-made explosives and instructions on how to use them, the police chief said.

He drove to Yangon in a rented car on Sunday night, checked into room 921 at the Traders Hotel and attached a small bomb to the back of the toilet, setting the timer to go off within 48 hours, the police chief said.

It detonated just before midnight on Monday, injuring a 43-year-old American woman who was visiting the country with her husband and two young children.

Other bombs - all primitive and locally made - were planted at a restaurant, a bus stop, near a market and near a Buddhist monastery.

Small bombings occurred frequently in Myanmar during 50 years of military rule. But they have been rare since the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011 and started implementing political and economic reforms.

Many activists and rights groups, however, say Myanmar is still far from free and the government is struggling to contain ethnic insurgencies.

The police chief said Saw Myint Lwin joined the Karen National Union rebel group at the age of 16 and left five years later in 2008. He started working at a mine where he met a man called "Nato" who convinced him to take part in the bomb plot, Zaw Win said.