YANGON, MYANMAR - Security forces in army-ruled Myanmar have arrested five men accused of plotting to bomb public places in three major cities, including an international airport, state media reported on Wednesday.
Investigators said "insurgents" had stockpiled explosives to plant bombs in northern Mandalay, the economic hub, Yangon and the new capital, Naypyitaw, in an attempt to derail next month's long-awaited election, official newspapers said.
"Insurgents and minions of alien countries are committing terrorist attacks in the country with the intention of undermining peace and stability and disrupting the election,"the newspapers said.
"If those plots had not been exposed and stopped by security personnel in time, innocent lives at Yangon international airport and public places of Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw would have ended in tragedy."
The authorities said two of the five arrested men had carried out the Oct. 1 bombing of a local government office hosting election officials in Bago Township, 80 km (50 miles) north of the biggest city, Yangon. No one was wounded.
That bombing stirred fears of violence during the Nov. 7 poll, the first in two decades in the former Burma.
Critics say the election is an elaborate charade to allow the military and its proxies to retain power while appearing legitimate.
State media reports said 10 detonators and five 200-gram (7 ounce) blocks of TNT explosives were found buried near a church in Bago, along with a list of potential bomb targets.
Authorities said the men were linked to the All Burma Students Democratic Front, a dissident group formed after the bloody suppression of student-led protests in 1988, and the Karen National Union, a major ethnic separatist group that has been fighting the government for more than 60 years.
Bomb explosions are fairly common in Myanmar and the military, which has ruled since 1962, usually puts the blame on dissident groups, democracy activists or ethnic rebels. --REUTERS