Yangon, Myanmar (UPI) Dec 21, 2009
A bomb blast in a market near a high school in the town of Pha Pun killed seven people and injured 11, government media said.
The early morning explosion happened when the market stalls were packed with people, according to a report in the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar.
The dead are ages 26 to 51 and all were among shoppers celebrating the Lunar Karen New Year. The explosion was a time-bomb attack and not that of a suicide bomber.
Pha Pun is around 120 miles north east of Yangon, formerly called Rangoon and previously the capital city. Karen state -- called locally Kayin -- has a population of around 1.5 million and is long and sinuous with its eastern side bordering Thailand.
Police blamed the separatist group Karen National Union. "Insurgents plant and detonate bombs on roads and bridges and in busy places and festivities in towns and villages to create public panic," the newspaper report noted.
However, a local KNU commander said they were not involved in the blast, a report on the Burma News International Web site said.
KNU spokesman Maj. Saw Kalae Doh said he heard about the explosion and asked his battalion what it was about. "They said they were not involved and there was no order from above to do so. The explosion happened in the junta-controlled area and that needs to be taken into account."
A national spokesman for the KNU "flatly rejected" that it had anything to do with the blast, according to a report on the Web site Democracy for Burma, Burma being the previous name for Myanmar after the ruling military renamed the country in 1989.
It quotes KNU spokesman David Thackabaw saying that the Karen National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the KNU, has been fighting the Myanmar government for more than 60 years since independence from British rule. But the KNU does not plant bombs near civilians. Bombs will, however, be used against the military, he said.
The Democracy for Burma Web site report also quotes Myanmar political analyst Aung Naing Oo saying that the KNU had been involved in bombings in the past, but that it was rarely clear who is responsible. "It could be the military, it could be anti-military groups, and it could well be the KNU. I think they are often implicated given their proximity to the area of the bombings."
The military also cracks down hard on the local population after a bombing, Aung said.
In a long speech published in New Light of Myanmar on Nov. 2, the government said it would not hesitate to arrest local as well as foreign journalists if they believed that they are helping terrorists. Such reporters are "minions of the neo-colonists," said Minister for Information Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan, head of the government press watchdog the Information Committee of the State Peace and Development Council.
Kyaw said "the U.S. and its associates" are using their media as propaganda tools in an effort to push Myanmar into a crisis that would eventually bring down the government. Also, "recently the U.S. has misused the U.N. to put Myanmar affairs on the agenda of the Security Council."
He went on to blame the International Labor Organization for its "groundless accusation" that forced labor exists in Myanmar.
"And the special envoy of the U.N. Human Rights Commission is making slanderous accusations that the conditions on human rights in Myanmar are still deteriorating." A media group "is making a mountain out of a molehill" that Myanmar is one of the countries where there is no freedom of the press.
He said "dutiful journalists" have been criticizing the campaigns of terrorist and separatist groups.
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