YANGON, Myanmar — An explosion that injured an American guest in one of the ritziest hotels in Myanmar’s main city was caused by a small, homemade time bomb placed in her room, police said today.
It was one in a series of recent explosions in the country, which the government alleges is an attempt to tarnish the country’s new image as a democracy emerging from decades of oppressive military rule.
Police officer Myint Htwe said three suspects were detained late Monday in connection with the blast at the Traders Hotel in the heart of Yangon. A 43-year-old American woman was wounded; thick shards of glass from the shattered windows of her ninth-floor room landed in the street more than 30 meters (100 feet) away. Her husband and two young children, ages 5 and 7, were unharmed.
It was the most high-profile of the recent blasts, including two before dawn today in Saggaing near Mandalay. Police said the first of those blasts occurred in the restaurant of a hotel used by tourists and the second was at the Taw Oo Pone Nya Shin Pagoda. No one was injured, police officer Tin Maung Aye said.
Few details were available about the other blasts, although one media report said they killed at least two people wounded several others.
“These are deliberate acts to create panic, but the people should be cautious not to fall into the trap,” said Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who now serves as the opposition leader in parliament. She said it’s very important for authorities “to urgently expose the perpetrators.”
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia the bombings may be aimed at smearing the country’s image as it prepares to take leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional grouping in 2014 and host the Southeast Asian Games later this year.
“Someone or some organization” wants to “make the international community misunderstand the situation of stability and peace in Myanmar,” he said.
Small bombings occurred frequently in Myanmar during 50 years of military rule, most often blamed on armed exiled groups or ethnic rebels. But they have been rare since the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011 and made sweeping reforms.
But many activists and rights groups say Myanmar is still far from free, and dissent is frequently stifled despite the reforms.
A dozen police and heavily armed soldiers with a sniffer dog entered the Traders Hotel soon after the explosion. The device was apparently hidden in the bathroom. It scattered towels, toiletries and a red purse across the floor. A chair was overturned and part of the wooden wardrobe had lifted off its hinges and was lying on the ground.
Witnesses saw blood on the injured woman’s arm and below her waist as she was escorted through the lobby by her husband and taken to a Yangon hospital. A U.S. Embassy official said consular officials had met with her and were providing assistance.
Traders Hotel general manager Phillip Couvaras said in a statement that the hotel, part of the Shangri-La group, was working with authorities to investigate what happened and would not comment further because it was an active police investigation.