Myanmar’s government is drafting a new anti-terrorism law, a senior official said Monday, amid a spate of “terrorist” bombings in cities across the country this month.
The announcement of the draft law followed a fresh explosion Sunday in Nanhkan township in eastern Myanmar’s Shan state—at least the seventh blast in the country since Oct. 9.
In the wake of the bombings, the government is working in consultation with international organizations to prepare new legislation aimed at curbing terrorism, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Major-General Kyaw Kyaw Tun told reporters outside a parliamentary session in the capital Naypyidaw.
“As this issue is related to the international community, we are going to create this law in accordance with suggestions from the international community,” he said.
“Several international organizations have given us suggestions on drafting a law to halt terrorism.”
A bill will be submitted to parliament after it receives approval from the Attorney-General, he said.
Myanmar currently has no laws that outline punishments explicitly for terrorism, though it has considered introducing such legislation in recent years.
Series of explosions
State media have branded the recent series of bombings, which have left at least two dead and four injured, as “terrorist acts.”
At least eight people have been detained in connection to the blasts, which hit the cities of Yangon, Mandalay, Taungoo, Sagaing, and other areas—including an explosion at the ritzy Traders Hotel in Yangon.
At least four unexploded devices have been found in various areas.
Sunday’s explosion in Nanhkan was the fourth in the township since Thursday, when authorities said they were investigating blasts in the area.
The bomb went off at around 10:00 a.m. in Lwelinkan village, “about two miles from Nanhkan,” and did not cause any injuries, local lawmaker Sai Tin Oo, a member of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Police are on alert and workers are removing garbage from the bins in the area to search for any further planted explosives, he said.
Authorities have said this month’s blasts were related to one another and aimed at smearing Myanmar’s image as it prepares to host the Southeast Asia Games in December and takes the reins of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc.
Bomb blasts were relatively common under Myanmar’s former junta regime, which usually blamed the explosions on armed exile groups or ethnic rebels.
But they are rare under the quasi-civilian government which took power in 2011, implementing political and economic reforms and striving to end long-running ethnic insurgencies.
Among suspects held over the recent bombings is Saw Myint Lwin, a former member of the Karen National Union (KNU) ethnic rebel group, who according to reports was paid by a group of Karen businessmen to carry out the blasts in the country.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut has said the recent bomb blasts were unrelated to the KNU.
An editorial in the in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said last week said the recent bombings should not deter the country’s efforts at making peace with ethnic rebel groups.
“The country is in its critical juncture, about to seal the ground breaking nationwide ceasefire deal with all ethnic armed groups. Almost everyone in the country is working for a forum for finding a political solution to bring peace and end gunfire.”
“These coward[ly] acts are to be assumed as mere terrorist act[s]," it said.
The bombings follow several bouts of anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar that have killed at least 45 people this year.
Since June last year, at least 250 people have died in communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims that saw tens of thousands displaced.
Reported by Win Naung Toe and Sai Tun Aung Lwin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.