RANGOON — The police in southern Burma are searching for three Muslim men suspected of entering the country illegally from Thailand and plotting a bomb attack.
Security has been tightened in the Burmese border town of Myeik, in Tanintharyi Division, where the men are believed to have entered the country, a police officer in the town told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
“We have deployed more security forces because we received information about three people suspected of coming to plot a bombing,” the officer said in a phone interview, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We have photos of the three suspects that we sent to every police station, to find them.”
Leaked photographs of the suspects from the police were published on Thursday by the Rangoon-based Daily Eleven newspaper. The suspects were identified in the newspaper as Mahmed, Azziz and Hla Myint.
Mahmed, who lived in Burma for 12 years and was formerly a Burmese citizen, currently has Thai citizenship, the newspaper reported. The citizenship of Azziz, who lives in Indonesia, is currently unknown, it said, while Hla Myint has applied for Thai citizenship but was born in west Burma’s Arakan State. The three men reportedly speak fluent Burmese.
The police are conducting security checks on travelers moving in and out of Myeik, The Daily Eleven reported.
Burma’s national police force says security has been tightened across the country but not necessarily in relation to the three suspected bombers.
“All police in the country have been alerted to raise security, but it’s not about the three suspects and the bomb plot,” said Win Khaung, the national police chief. “It’s because the SEA Games are coming soon, and it’s for the tourists.”
Burma has seen a rapid rise in tourists since the former military regime handed power to a quasi-civilian government two years ago, and the country is set to host the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), a major regional sporting event, in December.
“We want visitors who come to our country to stay peacefully. We do not want anything to happen to them,” the police chief said.
He added that security concerns were raised after a Buddhist holy site in neighboring India was bombed last month.
After the series of blasts at Bodh Gaya temple in northern India, Burma’s government tightened security in the country, especially at Buddhist sites. Police were stationed at Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, Mandalay’s Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, and the ancient temple complex of Pagan.
Some Indian media reported that the Bodh Gaya bombing was conducted by radical Muslim groups seeking to avenge violence committed against Muslims in Buddhist-majority Burma.
Waves of inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims have rocked Burma since June 2012, killing about 250 people and displacing another 150,000 people, mostly Muslims. The government has been accused of doing little to prevent attacks on the country’s Muslim minorities.