In Rangoon, There is Plenty to be Afraid of

By The Irrawaddy 29 November 2016

RANGOON — Burglaries, muggings, stabbings in the streets and child abuse—Rangoon seems to have everything it needs to terrify its residents. Sadly, there is more.

To add to the city’s fear, the latest threat to the city of more than five million people this month is a series of improvised devices exploding in four different places over the last two weeks. On Tuesday morning, a bomb squad disposed of four energy drink bottles initially suspected of being filled with explosives found at Rangoon International Airport’s Terminal 1.

The city’s explosions haven’t caused any casualties, but their shockwaves have instilled fear in the city’s residents, particularly when two devices exploded at the Rangoon Divisional Government Office last Friday.

Friday’s blast raised serious questions over the security of the city and the safety of its residents as it took place in one of the most secure places in Rangoon—a government compound housing the divisional parliament and Rangoon’s police headquarters.

It’s shameful for authorities that the residence of Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein—the most powerful government official in Rangoon—was just meters from where the devices exploded.

Despite the severity of the issue and to the dismay of the public, Rangoon police have remained tight-lipped on the situation.

They have not acted so far as to conjure an excuse for their silence—when reporters call for information they simply slam the phone down.

State-run newspapers have dutifully shunned publishing any related new.

Rangoon Chief Minister’s Facebook, where Rangoonites have come to expect prompt updates on city happenings, has been in radio silence.

This is not the response expected from the democratic government we enthusiastically voted for just one year ago.

The government is accountable for the safety of its people and if it fails to protect them, they should be told the reason behind this failure.

The government must be transparent.

With alleged attacks from Muslim militants in Arakan State and ongoing conflict with ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State, the Rangoon government cannot that naïve that it fails to see how its stony silence will fuel rumors and suspicion among the populace.

If the over-active rumor mill continues it could derail national reconciliation and the peaceful coexistence of different communities.

The explosions at Rangoon Divisional Government Office in particular are challenges to the country’s rule of law and a shocking testament to how loose the security in the city is.

The government should spare no effort to bring the culprits behind the explosives—whoever they are—to justice. The criminals should be behind bars for the sake of everyone’s safety.

When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was on the campaign trail across the country last year, she promised rule of law if her party came to power.

Eight months into her government’s term, mysterious explosions on the streets of Rangoon prove that she is yet to accomplish this mission.