Legal

7 July 2015, Myanmar – bombers sentenced

On 3 July, a Myanmar district court sentenced Saw Myint Lwin to life in prison with hard labor for helping a terror cell bomb the Traders Hotel in Yangon in October 2013. Lwin claimed during his trial that his handlers said he’d be killed if he didn’t plant the bomb, reports Consult-Myanmar.com

The Traders bomb was one of eight that exploded throughout Myanmar over a six-day period. Two other lodgings were targeted, including the Chan Myae Guest House in Taungoo, and the Shwe Pyitsone Hotel (also reported as the Shwe Pyae Sone Guest House) in Sagaing.

The Traders Hotel bomb exploded on 14 October in the bathroom of a suite occupied by an American couple and their children, reports the BBC. The bomb was reportedly a time bomb planted approximately 24 hours earlier. The targeting of the victims seemed to be random. The blast caused non life-threatening injuries to the wife of the couple and spewed glass 98 feet into the street below.

On 28 April 2014, the Traders Hotel rebranded and is now the Sule Shangri-La.

The sentencing of Mr. Lwin follows the sentencing of Saw Tun Tun in January 2015, another member of the Burma bombing cell, who planted a device in the Chan Myae Guest House. That explosion killed two and wounded one, says Reuters. Tun’s penalty was both ten years in prison with hard labor and death by hanging under Myanmar’s 1980 Explosives Act.

Both men reportedly confessed to planting bombs for a former leader of the Karen National Union (KNU) rebel group, Saw Htowah. He allegedly paid the two bombers the equivalent of $20.00 USD each to carry out the attacks. Authorities continue their search for Htowah.

Reasons for the bombings have ranged from businessmen wanting access to gold mines to anger over the international business community coming to Myanmar before highly touted human rights reforms have fully taken root.

The KNU is one of more than 15 rebel groups in Myanmar that has been fighting the government for independence since the end of WW II. The KNU strongly disavowed the hotel attacks and helped the government with its investigation that directly led to the aforementioned arrests.

While fighting between the government and Myanmar’s various rebel groups does directly impact certain civilian populations, it has rarely, if ever, spilled over into the tourist/hotel sector. The KNU’s argument in this case is that it gains no political ground from targeting civilians in hotels.

Copyright © Muir Analytics 2015

Sources and further reading

Man gets life sentence for Yangon hotel bombing in 2013,” News 24.com, 7 July 2015.

Man tied to 2013 Myanmar hotel blast gets life in prison”, AP, 3 July 2015.

Myanmar court sentences hotel bomber to death,” Reuters, 8 January 2015.

Yangon bomb accused tells court he faced death threats,” Consult-Myanmar.com, 5 September 2014.

Traders Hotel in Rangoon, Burma, hit by bomb blast,” BBC, 15 October 2013.

District court sentences Taungoo bomber to death by hanging,” Eleven Myanmar.com, no date.

Karen rebels reject Rangoon bomb plot ‘allegation’,” US Campaign for Burma.org, no date.