Twin blasts bring number of bombings to 121 in Yangon since Myanmar coup

Anti-junta forces claim responsibility, but residents say they face arrest and interrogation just from passing by.
2022.01.24
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Security footage shows a blast in Myanmar's Yangon city on Jan. 4, 2022.
Citizen journalist

Two bombs detonated in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon on Saturday, bringing the total number of explosions set by prodemocracy militias in the city since the February 2021 coup to 121, according to an investigation by RFA’s Myanmar Service.

On Jan. 22, a bomb exploded near the No. 20 Ward Administration Office in Yangon’s Hlaingtharyar township, and a remote-controlled explosive went off near a security guard post at a junta office near the city’s Thanlyin Maritime University. Both explosions were later claimed by anti-junta militant groups.

At least 121 anti-junta blasts have gone off in Yangon over the past year, including 28 in Hlaingtharyar township between Dec. 1 and Jan. 22, 18 in Thanlyin, 16 in Mingaladon, 13 in South Okkalapa, 12 in Thaketa, 11 in Okkalapa, nine in Shwepyithar, eight in Dawbon, and six in Tamwe. No official statistics have been made available on bomb attacks prior to Dec. 1, 2021, and several of the incidents included in the total are based on RFA’s reporting.

Most of the blasts occurred near places like schools, administrative buildings, the offices of utility companies, and police stations where security forces were stationed.

A resident of Mayangone township who identified herself as Thuzar told RFA on Monday that people try to avoid sites where security forces are stationed in Yangon, for fear of getting caught in an explosion.

“There are blasts sometimes during the daytime and sometimes late at night. If there are security forces about, people choose another road because they do not want to have anything to do with these soldiers and police,” she said.

“We [also] stay away from the site of any [bombing] incident. If you are found near a site, you might get arrested for questioning. Even if we find injured soldiers near a blast, we wouldn’t do anything to help them as we are fearful of the consequences.”

Moe Myint, another resident of Yangon, told RFA that people who have no choice but to work in the city often are unable to avoid such incidents and sometimes get arrested and interrogated.

“All these young people are working for the overthrow of the [military regime], but they warn people before they [attack],” he said.

“People have been warned to avoid places where junta forces are around, so they can at least decide which route to take if they need to go out.”

Kyaw Lay, a spokesman for the anti-junta Yangon Federal Army, said the bombs the guerrilla group sets only target junta security forces.

“Our people are mainly fighting against the junta forces to regain the democracy we have lost. This is a fight by the people for a just cause,” he said.

“We have sacrificed our lives and will continue to fight against the junta. We believe that even if we are gone, the next generation will carry on the fight. The military will be able to rule our Yangon only if we all die first.”

Kyaw Lay told RFA that urban guerrilla groups conduct clandestine operations to try to keep people out of harm’s way.

Tenuous control in Yangon

Junta Deputy Information Minister Zaw Min Tun told RFA that security forces are working to end the bombings. The number of attacks in Yangon had increased since September, he said, when the shadow National Unity Government declared war on the junta.

“In the days following the announcement, there were about nine incidents in one day in Yangon. Even now there are still one or two bomb blasts a day in the suburbs,” Zaw Min Tun said.

He said that the government “is gaining control” of the situation, without providing details.

Security analyst Kyaw Zaw Han said there will be no end to the bombings until the junta gives up control of the country.

“Now that the opposition is able to produce their own weapons with locally available materials and not rely on imports anymore, there continue to be more, as some people are bent on taking revenge for their losses,” he said.

Arresting and imprisoning people in connection with the bombings, instead of resolving the political crisis, would do little to address the issue, Kyaw Zaw Han said.

According to the Association Assistance for Political Prisoners, the military regime has arrested or detained more than 8,760 civilians arrested or detained since the Feb. 1 coup that deposed the democratically elected National League for Democracy government. The junta has killed 1,490 civilians, the Bangkok-based group says.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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