The police have launched an investigation after suspected armed insurgents hijacked a bus traveling from south Burma to Rangoon, robbing more than $4,000 and killing two people.
The bus was hijacked by five armed passengers on Saturday night while driving from Mon State to Burma’s biggest city, local police told The Irrawaddy, adding that the attackers held the bus driver at gun point before forcing him off the road in Mon State’s Thaton Township and attacking him and his assistant.
“The bullet shells we collected from the crime scene were from Brazil and were made for a 9 mm pistol,” the township police chief said. “Ordinary people don’t have access to that kind of weapon.”
Citing testimony from passengers on board, the police chief said four of the five attackers held guns. He said the attackers fired a warning shot and seized the mobile phones of passengers to prevent anyone from calling the police. He said the gunmen escaped after the attack.
The police later found the driver’s assistant dead with a bullet wound to the head. The driver was seriously injured with a bullet wound in his cheek and died of his injuries on Sunday at Thaton hospital.
“More than 4 million kyats (US$4,210) was robbed,” the police chief said, adding that investigators were searching for the gunmen and planned to file charges of robbery and murder.
The incident has raised suspicions of religious violence because the bus company owner was Muslim and the attack follows a series of anti-Muslim riots in several locations around the country since the past year.
Officials at the bus company rejected that religion played any role.
“The attack had nothing to do with religion,” said Khaing Myint, director of Yazamin Express Service. “If it did concern religion, they [the attackers] would not have killed my staff or robbed the passengers, but would have only set my bus on fire, because nearly everyone on board was Buddhist.”
He blamed inadequate law enforcement on the highway and called on the government to tighten security measures.
This is not the first time a Yazamin Express Service bus has been targeted. In another past incident, a bus from the same company was set alight near the Mon State capital of Moulmein.