An official in Yangon, Burma says an overnight bomb explosion in a Burmese town near the Thai border left two people dead and at least eight wounded with analysts raising fears of more violence ahead of general elections likely later this year as well as conflicts within Burma's ethnic communities and the central government. The explosion also comes ahead of an anniversary to mark a Burmese military crackdown against pro-democracy protestors in 1988.
The explosion in the Burmese border town of Myawaddy came early Friday evening at a busy night market and scattered stalls during a busy trading time.
Myawaddy is directly opposite the Thai town of Mae Sot, a key crossing border point and in a border region where the ethnic minority Karen have been fighting the government seeking an independent state.
Lae Lae Nwe, from the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, who lives in Mae Sot, said the reports were of a clash between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army or DKBA and Burmese military.
"I think its DKBA and military soldier fighting each other last night. I heard about the explosion. Two were dead on the spot of the explosion... injury... five got serious injuries," she said.
One official said authorities believed the dead were the bombers with the devices going off prematurely.
The DKBA broke away from the anti-government Karen National Union in the 1990s to side with the military government. But analysts say splits have occurred within the DKBA over those in favor of a government call for ethnic armies to become a border patrol force.
Myawaddy has been the destination for hundreds of Burmese migrant workers being deported from Thailand.
The explosions and bloodshed come ahead of the 22nd anniversary of a military crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Rangoon in 1988 left hundreds dead and thousands injured with many forced to flee to neighboring Thailand
The ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Myanmar caucus, marking the anniversary, said elections for this year "would neither be free or fair" and serve only to entrench the military's rule. The military has been in power in Burma - also known as Myanmar - since 1962 and is guaranteed a fixed number of seats in the new parliament.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party was disbanded after electoral laws barred NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the election.
At the last elections in May 1990 the NLD won by a landslide but the military refused to acknowledge the victory. Debbie Stothardt, a spokeswoman for the Alternative ASEAN Network, says the military's aim is to control all parts of the new parliament.
"The message of the regime to the population is you must participate in this election but you must not win and groups that were willing to compromise in order to be able to participate are now finding having any kind of aspirations for genuine democracy for Burma is a disadvantage in this election," she said.
Burma analysts say there is the prospect of clashes between Burma's army and ethnic groups after the vote as a new government moves to impose control, while ethnic armies such as the Chin, Karen and Wa resist calls to surrender control and take the role as border patrol forces.