Myanmar military accuses opponents of bombing ferry boat

Dec 18, 2022, 3:23 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 5:25 am

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s army on Monday accused opponents of the military-imposed government of responsibility for an explosion that injured 17 people on a ferry boat in the country’s largest city, Yangon.

A statement by the army’s information office blamed the People’s Defense Force, the armed wing of Myanmar’s banned main pro-democracy movement, for the blast Sunday, but presented no evidence. No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Myanmar has been engulfed in what some U.N. experts have characterized as a civil war since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. The army is engaged in brutal large-scale counter-insurgency operations in the countryside, while authorities also contend with urban guerrillas in the cities who target people and institutions associated with the ruling military with assassinations and bombings.

An urban guerrilla group named the Yangon District People’s Brigade expressed sadness about Sunday’s explosion on its Facebook page and said that fighters for democracy would never harm civilians. Such groups have at least a loose affiliation with the People’s Defense Force.

The statement issued by the army’s Tatmadaw True News Information Team said a homemade bomb exploded at 6:40 p.m. Sunday on the state-owned ferry traveling across the Yangon River from Yangon to the suburban township of Dala.

The injured people were taken to Yangon General Hospital. A volunteer rescue worker who helped the victims said they were injured in the lower parts of their bodies and five were in critical condition. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested by the authorities.

The worker and the army both said the explosion took place on the bottom deck of the boat. Photos that were circulated on social media showed bloodstains on the floor of the boat and some mangled bicycles. Photos said to be of victims showed them with leg wounds.

The ferry service is a major mode of public transport linking Yangon with four townships to the south.

The army’s 2021 takeover was met with massive resistance which security forces quashed with deadly force, driving the opponents of military rule to take up arms.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, says security forces have killed at least 2,604 civilians and arrested 16,557 others since the military takeover.

The military government has denounced the People’s Defense Force as “terrorists” and said in the statement Monday that it has been “arresting and killing monks, government employees and civilians and committing bomb attacks using handmade bombs on public roads, bridges and passenger buses and ferry boats.”

In May, a civilian was killed and nine others were injured when a bomb exploded at a bus stop in Yangon. The military government and its opponents traded accusations over the blast.

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Myanmar military accuses opponents of bombing ferry boat