(Adds suspect arrested, reaction)
By Jared Ferrie and Aung Hla Tun
YANGON Oct 15 It was just before midnight when
the crude time-bomb exploded in the ninth-floor guest room in
the luxurious Traders Hotel in Myanmar's biggest city, badly
wounding an American tourist and showering the streets below
A police source told Reuters the explosion late on Monday
was part of a coordinated series of bomb attacks across Myanmar
by an "organised group", targeting tourist haunts, a Buddhist
temple and other public places. It was the seventh blast since
Friday and was followed by two more explosions early on Tuesday.
Soon after the bomb went off at the Traders in Yangon,
another device exploded in the parking lot of the Shwe Pyitsone
Hotel in Sagaing region and another at a pagoda, Sagaing police
and a government official said. There were no casualties.
The bomb attacks are the latest violence in a year that has
seen the euphoria over democratic reforms give way to sectarian
attacks that have spread across Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Anti-Muslim unrest simmered under the military junta that
ran the Buddhist-dominated country for nearly half a century.
But the worst has occurred since the quasi-civilian government
took power in March 2011.
Police and diplomatic sources, however, said it was not
clear if the blasts were connected to religious unrest.
"I think these blasts and aborted attempts were carried out
by a systematically organised group," said a police official in
Yangon who declined to be identified because he is not
authorised to speak to the media.
"By the look of the devices they used, and the way they
carried it out, they must have been trained in terrorist acts
systematically." He said devices found in Mandalay and Yangon
recently were made in the same way, with hand-grenades.
Police are already investigating the series of bombings that
began on Friday, when an explosion killed two people in a
guesthouse in the town of Taungoo, about 55 km (35 miles) from
the capital, Naypyitaw.
There are few hotels with as much symbolic significance in
Yangon as the 22-storey, 334-room Traders, owned by billionaire
Robert Kuok's Shangri-La Asia Ltd. It is a hive of
activity; businessmen, journalists, tourists and aid workers
mingle in its lobby.
Until this year, several U.N. agencies had offices there.
"TO ALARM AND DESTABILISE"
According to a Reuters witness and police, the bomb in the
Traders appeared to go off in the bathroom in a room overlooking
Sule Pagoda road, a main thoroughfare.
"It sounded like a subdued explosion," said Graeme Romer, a
guest staying on the eighth floor.
He said he went downstairs to the lobby and saw an injured
woman wrapped in sheets lying on the floor. "She was bleeding
profusely," Romer said. The woman was on holiday with her
husband and two children who were not injured.
Two bombs exploded in Yangon on Saturday, according to
police, one at a bus stop that caused no injuries and another
that slightly wounded two boys. Police said they found an
unexploded bomb in a Yangon restaurant on Monday.
Police said they had arrested four suspects in connection
with the bomb attacks, including one identified as Saw Myint
Lwin, 26. He was seen on closed-circuit television cameras at
the Traders and arrested in Mon State, police said.
"These devices were obviously not intended to cause large
numbers of casualties," said Anthony Davis, an analyst at
IHS-Jane's, a global security consulting firm. "They were
designed to alarm and destabilise. And their geographical spread
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut linked the blasts to Myanmar
assuming this year's chairmanship of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"It must have been carried out to create worries and concern
among the people and to make the international community doubt
the security standard in Myanmar at a time when Myanmar is going
to take the ASEAN chair," Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia's
Myanmar has been hit by bombings before. Three explosions
during a traditional new year festival in 2010 killed at least
10 people. In 2005, three bombs at a convention centre and
markets killed 23 people.
Authorities blamed the 2005 bombing on ethnic rebel groups
and a government in exile.
A Southeast Asian diplomat in Yangon cast doubt on the
involvement of ethnic rebels this time. "I think there could be
a connection with some group outside the country."
(Additional reporting by Soe Zeya Tun in Yangon and Andrew R.C.
Marshall in Bangkok; Editing by Jason Szep and Robert Birsel)