BANGKOK—Three bomb blasts in Burma’s former capital, Rangoon, have killed as many as nine or 10 people at a Burmese New Year water festival, witnesses say, and the death toll is expected to rise.
“Three explosions went off with two or three seconds between each blast. The bombs seem to have been placed under the stage,” one witness said.
“There was chaos, with people running everywhere. I saw lots of blood and it looked as if 10 people were killed. There were seven or eight people lying on the ground who were trying to get up, but couldn’t."
The explosions ripped through crowds celebrating the Buddhist New Year near Rangoon’s Kandawgyi Lake, which traditionally draws large crowds to celebrations where many many government-linked companies set up temporary pavilions along the waterfront.
State television said six people were killed and 75 injured in the bombing, outside pavilions erected for the celebrations at the sprawling Kandawgyi Lake.
A hospital official, however, said nine people were killed. Local hospitals told Agence France Presse that more than 60 people had been wounded and that the number of dead was likely to rise.
A number of security personnel at the festival, possibly plainclothes police, were injured in the explosions, another witness told RFA’s Burmese service.
“People watching the show said they recognized the security officers because they are normally stationed near where they live,” the witness said, on condition of anonymity.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the explosions, state media are reporting that terrorists may have been involved.
The ruling junta has blamed separatist or dissident groups for such blasts in the past. Dissidents and critics of the junta suspect the military of involvement, on the theory that attacks such as these create a climate of fear related to the country’s ethnic insurgents and justify ongoing military rule.
The Associated Press quoted witnesses as saying the emergency ward of Rangoon General Hospital was sealed off to outsiders after at least 30 injured people were rushed there. One said the hospital was a scene of chaos and commotion, with injured arriving drenched in blood and people crying and moaning.
This incident marks the deadliest since May 2005, when simultaneous bomb blasts killed as many as 21 people in three shopping areas in central Rangoon and injured some 160 others.
In 2005, the junta blamed ethnic rebel groups, including the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army, and exiled dissidents in the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)—and also sharply tightened security.
They denied any role in the blasts.
Burma’s government routinely restricts information on sensitive incidents such as bombings, clashes between authorities and the opposition, conflict with the country’s fractious ethnic minorities, and even natural disasters.
Original reporting by Nyan Win Aung and Zaw Moe Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.