Bomb blasts in Yangon spark blame game

Updated On: May 10, 2005

Yangon – The blame game has started in Myanmar following an unprecedented deadly bombing in the capital. The military blames an unlikely alliance of ethnic rebel armies and a pro-democracy exile group for the bombings. However, those accused have pointed the finger at the generals themselves, who are reportedly to be in the midst of a power struggle. 

    At least 11 people died and 162 others, including four Thai nationals, were injured when three time-bombs hidden in bags exploded at two supermarkets and the Yangon Convention Centre where Thailand was holding a trade exhibition.
    While military-ruled Myanmar is not unfamiliar with explosions, the bombing of public places in the heart of the capital was unprecedented. Yangon residents are now bracing themselves for more violence.  
    The New Light of Myanmar, the junta’s mouthpiece, blamed  ethnic and dissident groups including the Karen National Union, the Shan State Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), for the attacks. 
    But the NCGUB and other opposition groups denied involvement. “We totally reject this accusation,” Sann Aung, an NCGUB minister, told Associated Press. “We’re never involved in terrorism and also we are never involved in bomb blasts.”   
    The Karen National Union, the strongest rebel group, also denied responsibility. “We disapprove of these cruel acts because it has caused damage and made people suffer,” KNU general- secretary Mahn Sha Hla Phan told Reuters.  
    Analysts said the attacks were contrary to the nature of the resistance used by rebel and dissident groups. They also have no capability to launch such attacks in the heart of the capital and the bombs looked too professional for them. These analysts suggested that conflicts among the top generals in the highly-secretive junta might be the cause. 
    There has been speculation that Myanmar’s two top military leaders – Senior General Than Shwe and Vice-Senior General Maung Aye – are locked in a struggle for control. The two are also said to be at odds over how to deal with Myanmar's ethnic groups, especially those which have signed ceasefire agreements with Yangon.

* Burma bombs: Rangoon fears new attacks (The Nation, May 9)

* Junta says blasts work of activists (Bangkok Post, May 9)