Myanmar police said on Tuesday that a bomb caused a blast at a luxury Yangon hotel that wounded an American guest, as they questioned several suspects following a series of unexplained explosions.
Officials voiced fears that the incidents could be aimed at derailing democratic reforms as the country prepares to host a major regional sporting event and chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The injured American woman was taken to hospital with wounds to her thigh and her hand after the blast ripped through a guest room at the Traders Hotel in central Yangon late on Monday, police said.
“It was a time bomb. It was attached to a clock,” said a police official who visited the scene of the explosion.
Officials said they had detained a 27-year-old man who previously stayed in the hotel room where the blast occurred.
“The man who stayed there before the American family at the Traders Hotel was arrested as a suspect,” a second police official said.
He said the man was detained early Tuesday in the southeastern state of Mon.
“But it’s still early to say he planted the bomb without further investigation,” the official added.
The wounded guest’s condition was improving, according to Police Lieutenant General Min Aung of the Myanmar Police Force’s intelligence and security department.
“The injured American woman is feeling better,” he told Agence France-Presse.
“We’re still investigating and it’s an ongoing process. It’s too early to say who is responsible for these acts,” he added.
Military officials and soldiers with sniffer dogs were seen at the Traders Hotel following the blast while shattered glass covered the road outside.
The hotel, part of the Shangri-La group, is located in the heart of Myanmar’s commercial hub. It is popular with foreign tourists and visiting business people.
Police said two other suspects had been detained for questioning in connection with a string of mysterious explosions.
A man and a woman were killed and another person injured in an explosion Friday at a guesthouse in the town of Taunggu, about 65 kilometers from the capital Naypyidaw, police said.
Two other devices exploded in Yangon on Sunday—one at a bus stop and another under a truck, which wounded two teenagers, according to authorities.
Two more makeshift devices were found in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay on Monday while two blasts were reported early Tuesday at a restaurant and near a pagoda in the northwestern region of Sagaing.
Bomb blasts were relatively common under the former junta, which usually blamed the explosions on armed exile groups or ethnic rebels.
Three bombs rocked a park in Yangon in April 2010 as thousands of revelers celebrated an annual water festival, leaving 10 people dead and dozens wounded.
But such explosions had been rarer under a new quasi-civilian government which took power in 2011 promising political reforms and efforts to end long-running ethnic insurgencies.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said the recent bombs were intended to spread fear.
“I think that someone or some organisation asked some people to explode the bombs,” he told Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar Service, saying they had done it “with the intention of making people worried and scared”.
“I think that the explosions may have been timed to coincide with Myanmar becoming the chair of Asean and getting ready to host the Southeast Asian Games, to make the international community misunderstand the situation of stability and peace in Myanmar,” said Ye Htut.
Myanmar last week officially assumed the chairmanship of the Asean regional bloc for 2014. In December it will welcome athletes and sports fans to Naypyidaw for the Southeast Asian Games.
President Thein Sein’s government has reached tentative peace deals with major ethnic minority rebel groups as part of political reforms that have led to the lifting of most Western sanctions and prompted an influx of foreign tourists.
But the nation has been hit by several outbreaks of Buddhist-Muslim religious violence since June 2012 that have left about 250 people dead and more than 140,000 homeless. AFP