Small blasts hit Rakhine town as Myanmar’s Suu Kyi visits

YANGON (AFP) – Three small explosions went off in a southern Rakhine town in Myanmar yesterday just before civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi landed there in a rare visit to the conflict-ridden state, a local official said.

The blasts happened in the normally quiet town of Manaung on an island off Myanmar’s western coast where Suu Kyi was due to open a solar power plant.

“There were three explosions, but no casualties,” Win Myint, spokesperson for Rakhine’s regional government, told AFP.

He said it happened before Suu Kyi arrived, but since they were on the other side of town the event went ahead as planned and she had since left safely on a flight to Yangon.

“This has never happened in Manaung before.”

No group has yet claimed responsibility for planting the small bombs, which detonated at the side of a road, photos from local media showed.

The area has remained largely unscathed by unrest further north, where Myanmar’s military is locked in an increasingly vicious conflict with the Arakan Army (AA).

The rebel group claims to be fighting for more autonomy and rights for the ethnic Rakhine and garners sympathy from many local people who have long felt marginalised in the Bamar-majority country.

But tens of thousands have fled their homes over the past year and dozens of civilians have been caught in the crossfire.

There have been allegations of abuse against both sides.