Twin Blasts Rattle City Marketplaces

Explosions occur in two major Burmese urban centers.

Simultaneous explosions rattled market areas in Mandalay and Naypyidaw on June 24, 2011.

Simultaneous bomb blasts rocked two Burmese cities on Friday, leaving possibly two dead and several others injured, according to eyewitnesses and police officials.

The explosions rattled market areas in Burma’s cultural center of Mandalay and capital of Naypyidaw at around noon. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

A resident of Mandalay, the country’s second city, who witnessed the blast, said the device was planted in a jeep that was parked at a hotel near Mandalay Market on the corner of 84th and 27th streets.

“The whole car is completely black and burned. Two people died who had been pushing a cart nearby when the bomb went off,” the resident said.

“One woman was hit by shrapnel in the hip and was hospitalized. All the windows in the hotel were blown out,” the resident said.

Police could not confirm the deaths.

An officer at Mandalay’s Police Station No. 8 said the incident was still under investigation.

“So far, we know that only two people were involved, but I haven’t heard that they died,” he said.

“It’s unclear because reports have been coming in from many different sources. We don’t know exactly what happened yet and we are still investigating the matter.”

A female staff member at the Mandalay Market office said that no one had died in the incident.

“What I’ve heard is that the blast came from a car and that no one died, but two people were injured, though I don’t know for sure.”

Sources said that authorities arrived fairly soon after the blast took place, accompanied by three fire engines. The streets were quickly blocked off and the market was closed.

Capital blast

Residents said the Naypyidaw blast occurred near the city’s Thapyegon Market around the same time as the bombing in Mandalay.

“It happened in a house near the market. The house is pretty badly damaged because of the strength of the blast,” one witness said.

“The entire roof is gone. But no one lived there.”

An officer who answered the phone at Naypyidaw’s Police Station No. 1 confirmed the blast.

“Yes, it happened, but I’ve heard that there were no injuries and no one was killed,” he said.

“We’re still investigating the incident.”

The explosion marks the second bombing in Burma’s capital this month.

On June 10, a bomb left in the men’s bathroom of Naypyidaw’s Myoma Market injured two people.

Internal conflict

Bombings are rare but not unknown in Burma, which has a long history of internal conflict, especially between the central authorities and ethnic minorities in border areas seeking greater autonomy.

Opposition to the country’s new quasi-civilian government also remains strong among the public at large.

On Wednesday, explosions occurred outside a police station and an immigration office in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State in northern Burma.

Police in Myitkyina confirmed the blasts in an interview with the Irrawady news agency, but said there were no casualties, adding that members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were believed to have organized the plot.

The KIA ended a 17-year ceasefire with the Burmese government earlier this month.

On May 18, a train heading from Rangoon to Mandalay exploded near Naypyidaw, leaving two dead and nine injured. The government accused the Karen National Union—the political organization of the ethnic Karen people—but the group denied any involvement.

Last year, a series of bomb blasts tore through Burma as the country prepared for its first general election in 20 years. Critics said the November election was unfair and undemocratic and resulted in most government posts being retained by former officers in the military junta.

The highest-profile explosions occurred April 15 in Rangoon when three bombs killed as many as 20 people and wounded 170 others during the traditional New Year water festival.

Reported by Shwe Zin and Moe Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.