4 Killed In Car Bomb Blasts At Myanmar New Year Festival

The Thingyan festival, usually a joyful celebration involving public water fights, has become politicised since the coup, with pro-democracy advocates calling for boycotts of junta-supported events.

Four people were killed in eastern Myanmar on Thursday after a series of car bombs exploded at a pagoda where a crowd had gathered to mark the start of the Buddhist new year, a rescue worker and a security source said.

The country has been in turmoil since a 2021 coup, with the army and anti-junta fighters frequently clashing.

The blast comes only days after an estimated 130 people were reported killed in a junta air strike in central Myanmar.

The Thingyan festival, usually a joyful celebration involving public water fights, has become politicised since the coup, with pro-democracy advocates calling for boycotts of junta-supported events.

Shortly before midday, explosions destroyed at least three vehicles near Yan Taing Aung pagoda in eastern Shan state's Lashio township, local media reported.

"Four men were killed on spot from the blast area," said a Lashio rescue worker who transported the dead and wounded away from the site.

He told AFP 12 people were wounded and two were in serious condition at a hospital.

A security source also confirmed the death count and told AFP authorities had scoured the area for further explosives.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

In the commercial capital Yangon, streets were empty as residents stayed home following the devastating junta air strike in Pazi Gyi village in central Myanmar earlier this week.

While the official death count remains unconfirmed, media reports and a witness involved in the recovery of bodies said there had been at least 130 fatalities.

The attack prompted international outrage and condemnation.

"I feel consumed with grief, this was the reason why I do not participate in the water festival," one woman, who declined to give her name, told AFP from Yangon.

"Most people are staying at home to pay respect to those who lost their lives," said Cho Cho, 30, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her security.

The Yangon resident said they had also heard there would be attacks by anti-coup fighters.

"Staying at home is better for our safety," she said.

Several hundred people in traditional costumes did turn out at city hall and a nearby park to dance, release balloons and walk through pavilions spraying water.

More than 3,200 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since the military grabbed power in February 2021, according to a local monitoring group.
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