BANGKOK -- A series of unexplained blasts across Myanmar over the past several days has left two people dead and raised anxiety in the country's main city, Yangon, where an explosion Monday at a luxury hotel injured an American tourist.
Since Friday, nine explosions have hit hotels, a Buddhist pagoda and restaurants in Yangon and two regions north and northeast of the city, the authorities in Myanmar said.
No one had claimed responsibility as of Tuesday for detonating the small, homemade bomb in the Yangon hotel, according to The Associated Press bureau in the city -- adding to confusion over whether the blasts were coordinated and who was behind them. As Myanmar sheds the legacy of five decades of military rule, the explosions are another source of concern for a country already beset by religious violence and fighting between ethnic groups and the military.
The blast at the Traders Hotel, one of the best known hotels in Yangon and the former address of some United Nations agencies, occurred just before midnight on Monday, the police said. The United States Embassy said the blast had "seriously injured" the American tourist, but that "there is no indication at this time" that the bombs were targeting Americans.
The Myanmar news media reported that the wounded American was on vacation with her husband and two young children. The bomb was a crude device that was planted in the bathroom of the family's room on the ninth floor, according to the AP.
U Zaw Htay, a director in the office of President Thein Sein, said in a telephone interview that the people behind the bomb blasts "intentionally attempted to portray Myanmar as not peaceful just as more tourists, more investors and other important guests arrive."
Mr. Zaw Htay said the motive for the blasts may have been to scuttle negotiations between minority ethnic groups, the government and the military. The blasts were carried out by "individuals or groups who dislike democracy and development," he said.
The police said they had arrested four suspects on Tuesday in connection with the explosion at the Traders Hotel, but that it was too early to establish why the hotel was targeted.
"The explosions are a form of organized crime that require planning, manpower and money," said U Aung Moe Zaw, a former dissident and member of a political party, the Democratic Party for a New Society. "I think this could have been carried out by a powerful group that wants to discredit the current government or wants to put the security forces back in charge."
Mr. Thein Sein, a former general, has been moving his country quickly through democratic reforms, earning international recognition for his efforts and the lifting of sanctions.
Last week, Myanmar accepted the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a responsibility that entails hosting numerous meetings of government leaders and steering the agenda of the regional group. Some analysts have questioned whether the Myanmar government, which is preoccupied with the transition from military rule, is equipped to handle the chairmanship. Myanmar is also hosting the Southeast Asian Games, a regional sporting event, in December.
The two people reported killed in blasts on Friday, a policeman and a female civilian, were in a hotel in the city of Taungoo in the Bago region, according to Myanmar news media accounts. It was unclear whether the police officer was on duty at the time.
The authorities gave little information on Tuesday about the types of explosive devices that were used in the blasts.
The United States Embassy described the bombs as improvised explosive devices.
Wai Moe contributed reporting from Yangon.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 15, 2013 2:01 PM