Police in Burma are questioning four men arrested after a bomb exploded at one of Rangoon’s leading hotels, injuring an American guest and raising anxiety about security just weeks ahead of an international sports event. It was one of several bomb blasts in recent days.
Officials said the men had been detained following the blast inside a bathroom in a suite on the ninth floor of the Traders hotel. Police said the device that exploded - blowing out a window of the room and sending shards of glass onto the street outside - was was small, homemade time bomb.
A 43-year-old American woman, along with her husband and two young children, were in the room when the device exploded shortly before midnight. She was taken to a hospital in the city with slight injuries but her children and husband were not hurt. They later all flew to Bangkok.
“There was an explosion in a hotel guest room around midnight. The police are currently investigating the incident. The local authorities have cleared, swept and secured the building, and [we have] sent additional security personnel from Hong Kong to assist,” said Lori Lincoln, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which owns the hotel.
She added: “Traders hotel, Yangon remains in operation. We are focused on looking after the guest that was injured, the guest’s family, and all our guests and staff as well as assisting police with the investigation.”
Burma often experienced small bombs during the long years of military rule and most were blamed on one of the various ethnic groups that were battling with the armed forces. The Traders hotel, popular with foreign tourists and businessmen, was the target of one such previous explosion in 2008.
The blasts have become less frequent since President Then Sein came to power two years ago, and embarked on a series of democratic reforms and negotiations with many of the ethnic groups.
Yet in the last few days, Burma has been struck by a number of explosive devices that have killed at least two people and injured several others.
One device went off last Friday at a guesthouse in Taungoo, 125 miles from Rangoon, while two small bombs were set off in Rangoon on Sunday. A further two bomb blasts were reported on Tuesday morning in the Mandalay area.
According to the Associated Press, President Thein Sein’s spokesman, Ye Htut, told Radio Free Asia that the incidents may be aimed at smearing the country’s image.
“I think that the explosions may have been timed to coincide with Myanmar becoming the chair of ASEAN,” he said. “Someone or some organisation wants to make the international community misunderstand the situation of stability and peace in Myanmar.”
The bombs will be of particular concern for the authorities as Burma prepares to host the Southeast Asian Games, the region’s largest sports event, for the first time in 44-years. Events are due to be held at several locations across the country, including the capital, Naypyidaw, following an opening ceremony on December 11.
In the aftermath of the blast at Traders, a dozen police and heavily armed soldiers with a sniffer dog entered the hotel to inspect the scene. Police called on the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious packages found at bus or train stations, or at the seaport. Police arrested three men in Rangoon and a fourth in Mon state in the north. He was apparently captured on the hotel’s CCTV.
On Tuesday morning it was reported that a bomb squad team had been called to suspicious device found in Rangoon.