Burma police: Bombers trying to scare investors

October 18, 2013

Bombings that have rocked Burma in recent days were aimed at scaring away foreign investors, the national police chief said Friday, speaking in the commercial capital four days after an explosion at a luxury hotel in the city wounded an American woman.

Nine explosions in the past week have left three people dead and 10 injured.

Police Chief Zaw Win said the bombers, all allegedly linked to the same individual or group, were unhappy about reforms that have attracted some of the world’s most prominent companies as Burma moves from decades of military rule to an open economy.

Zaw Win said a businessman tied to the Karen National Union ethnic rebel group allegedly promised Saw Myint Lwin, one of eight suspects in police custody, a gold-mine permit if he succeeded in planting bombs at luxury hotels and restaurants.

Saw Myint Lwin, 25, was given $500, a bag of locally made explosives and instructions on how to use them, the police chief said.

The suspect drove to Rangoon in a rented car Sunday, checked into a room at the Traders Hotel and attached a small bomb to the back of the toilet, setting the timer to go off within 48 hours, Zaw Win said. It detonated late Monday, injuring a 43-year-old American woman who was visiting Burma with her husband and two young children.

Other bombs, all primitive and locally made, have been planted at a restaurant, a bus stop, near a market and near a Buddhist monastery in several cities.

The goal, the police chief said, “was to stop foreign involvement in the local market economy.”

Small bombings were common in Burma, also known as 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.

But many activists and rights groups say the country is still far from free, and the government is struggling to contain sectarian violence and long-running ethnic insurgencies.

Representatives of the Karen National Union signed a cease-fire agreement with the government last year, and Ye Htut, a presidential spokesman, said individuals, not the group itself, were to blame for the recent spate of violence.

He said the KNU has been cooperating with authorities to identify the culprits.

— Associated Press

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