Bomb Explodes at Headquarters of Pro-Military Party in Myanmar

Blast was one of six Friday explosions in largest city Yangon.
2021-06-18
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Bomb Explodes at Headquarters of Pro-Military Party in Myanmar Screen shot of a video obtained by RFA showing the aftermath of an explosion in Yangon, Myanmar, June 18, 2021
Photo: RFA

Six bombs exploded in three different locations in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon today, including at the headquarters of a political party backed by the country’s military, witnesses told RFA.

A Yangon rescue official told Reuters that two of the bombs killed two people and injured five others.

Bomb attacks have occurred frequently as people across Myanmar continue to resist the military junta that deposed the country’s democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party on Feb. 1, citing unsupported election fraud claims.

Anti-junta forces have attacked targets associated with the military in what the junta describes as acts of terrorism by those aligned with the NLD.

One of the six blasts in Yangon Friday occurred near a bus stop in front of the offices of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), an army proxy party that fared badly in 2020 elections and supported the coup, witnesses said.

Witnesses told RFA’s Myanmar Service that a car bomb exploded near a military vehicle parked in front of the office, in Yangon’s Tamwe township.

"It was very loud. I was near my sisters, and even the houses shook a little. We found out that some people were injured. I also heard the sound of ambulances,” a woman living nearby, who declined to be named, told RFA. 

Several other Tamwe residents told RFA that the military vehicle had been parked near the bus stop in front of the USDP offices since June 14, during an anti-junta protest by youth on the occasion of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara’s birth anniversary.

The residents said they had seen at least 10 soldiers on board the military vehicle previously, but they did not know if there were any soldiers on it during the bombing.

They said they believed that there were casualties because ambulances arrived at the scene.

RFA is still investigating whether anyone was injured in the blast.

Two other bombs went off on a nearby Yangon street on Friday, injuring two civilians, according to residents.

The Reuters report said that according to Win Thu, vice chairman of the Yangon Rescue Committee, the first of the two explosions killed a soldier and the second killed a passenger riding in a taxi. The explosions also injured five members of the security forces and the taxi driver.

Another Yangon resident told RFA that four more bombs exploded near the town hall in Hlaing Thayar township in the western part of the city.

Junta statement denied

In the country’s central Magway region, people who witnessed the burning of Kin Ma village on Tuesday told RFA that the junta misrepresented events in statements and a video it had released.

RFA reported Wednesday that four elderly villagers were killed when a fire tore through Kin Ma, destroying about 250 houses and sending 1,000 people fleeing to safety in nearby mountains.

According to a statement by the junta on Wednesday, security forces patrolling the village were ambushed by gunmen who had taken a position inside the houses, and it was the gunmen who started the fire as they fled.

Junta-controlled TV said troops were trying to clear “terrorists” from Kin Ma and found the village burning. The report said troops helped extinguish the fire.

On Thursday, the junta said that reports that conflicted with their version of events were untrue. They blamed a local people’s defense force (PDF), one the many fighting forces that have sprung up across Myanmar to fight junta troops after the coup, for starting the fire at the house of USDP member Kyaw Htay.

Witnesses told RFA that the junta’s statement was false.

“There’s a school in the eastern part of the village. The fire started in the house behind the school. It was not a USDP member’s house. She is one of my neighbors and I knew her,” a Kin Ma resident who lived near the house told RFA.

“Before you reach the eastern part of the village, there is a little creek, and the soldiers first had a shootout there with the local PDF. There was a lot of gunfire and the soldiers set fire to a small hut nearby,” she said.

The witness said that when the PDF retreated, the junta soldiers entered the village.

“After they entered the village, they were cursing and challenging the PDF members to fight. The PDF leader was near the school and another shootout broke out. He was no match for them because they were so many. After that they set fire to the first house they came upon,” she said.

194375909_350279623123373_9037886066989419072_n.jpg
This file photo shows the aftermath of the burning of Kin Ma village, Magway region, Myanmar. Credit: RFA

Another resident said many others witnessed the military torching houses.

“The video we saw did not show that the villagers set fire to their own village. We don’t have electricity or phone lines in Kin Ma, but the video put out by the junta clearly shows lampposts and electric wires,” the second Kin Ma resident said.

“The military never dares to speak the truth. They never tell the truth. We have many eyewitness accounts of their arson attack,” said the second resident.

It was not immediately clear to RFA which video the second villager was referring to.

The day after the fire, the villagers returned to their burnt houses in the village and cleared the debris and then fled again when soldiers came back, the witnesses said.

Another Kin Ma resident told RFA Friday that people there are now homeless and in need of shelter and medical assistance.

“The problem is getting food, clothes and medicine. It’s because this village is almost completely destroyed. A few have returned but they… are still very scared. There are currently not many people living in the village,” the third villager said.

The junta has said that NLD party members, extremists and some of the members of the media have deliberately accused security forces of setting the fire in an attempt to mislead the public and the international community.

RFA was unable to reach the junta’s Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment.

The parallel National Unity Government (NUG) said Thursday that the incident showed that the military’s leader Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and the armed forces under his command are unwilling to comply with international calls to stop violence.

The U.S. embassy in Yangon Thursday condemned the burning of Kin Ma on Twitter Thursday.

“These horrific acts are consistent w/ past atrocities committed against ppl of all ethnicities & religions. The military cont to demonstrate a complete disregard for human life,” the embassy said.

Two dozen die in detention

Data compiled by RFA and by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) show that since the Feb. 1 coup, 24 people have died while in custody of the junta forces, who continue to arrest NLD members, their supporters, and civilians.

The latest two victims are Chit Ko and Sein Win from Kun Site village in the central Mandalay region’s Myingyan township, whose bodies were discovered Wednesday near the village. Sources said the police and the military took the bodies away.

The two men were tortured to death during interrogations, the AAPP said in its daily coup briefing on Friday.

The two were part of a group of 38 betel growers arrested and detained at the Myingyan No. 2 police station on Tuesday after two unidentified men in Kun Site stabbed the township’s former USDP chairman Myint Kyaw.

A resident of Myingyan who declined to be named for security reasons told RFA that the police did not return the bodies to the community.

“The village abbot went to ask for the dead bodies. Police said the bodies had already been buried,” said the Myingyan resident.

“The others arrested along with Win Sein and Chit Ko said they did not know what happened because the two were not killed in front of them. I want the world to know about the unlawful arrests and inhumane torture of the military,” the Myingyan resident said.

Another resident who declined to be named told RFA that the stabbers remain at large.

“The guilty people admitted what they did and ran away. Chit Ko and Win Sein were taken to the police station for interrogation. The bodies can now be confirmed as theirs, but the bodies were not given back. The army has taken them away,” the second Myingyan villager said.

Myint Kyaw, the USDP member who was stabbed, is currently undergoing treatment at Mandalay hospital, residents said. Chit Ko was the son of the village NLD party chairman. Sources said his father went into hiding as the troops are currently stationed in the village.

"The actions of the military are not acceptable under both domestic and international law. The killing of innocent people should no longer be tolerated by the international community,” an AAPP member told RFA. 

“The junta has openly committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. The international community as well as the people should make efforts to bring the military regime to justice.”

Chit Ko and Sein Win are the latest of seven people who died at interrogation centers within a day of their arrest since Feb. 1.

Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s human rights minister, said that torture violated international human rights.

“No one should ever be tortured… Unlawful persecution and torture to the point of death are unacceptable. If there is a violation, the perpetrator has to be prosecuted accordingly as a deterrent so that such incidents can be prevented from happening again,” said the minister.

As of Friday 870 people have been killed and 4,983 have been arrested and are still detained since Feb. 1, according to AAPP figures.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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