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Rangoon Explosion Leaves Several Injured - 2003-03-27

An explosion outside a post and telecommunication office in Rangoon Thursday left several people injured. The explosion took place despite tight security in the city as it marked its national Armed Forces Day.

The explosion outside the post office in Rangoon occurred as the rift between Burma's ruling military government and the opposition deepens. The chief issue is the pace of political change.

Reports from the Burmese capital say at least one person was killed and up to three injured when the explosion, possibly a bomb concealed in garbage pile, went off near the city center. Officials are not commenting on the explosion and no groups are claiming responsibility for the blast. Most offices and embassies are closed for the holiday.

In a speech, the military government's senior general, Than Shwe, accused some of the country's ethnic groups of being under the influence of foreign countries.

General Than Shwe, in an address made after viewing a parade of 7,000 troops, vowed to "annihilate all kinds of threats to the nation."

Several of Burma's ethnic minorities have signed ceasefire agreements with the military government after decades of fighting Rangoon for greater independence.

But the ethnic Shan, Karen and Karenni groups have continued to fight despite negotiations with the military government.

At a separate function, opposition and National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, used her speech to call on the democracy movement to push harder for political reform.

Aung San Suu Kyi told a gathering of about 500 people, including military officials, diplomats and politicians, that democracy could only be achieved with perseverance and hard work.

The speeches reflect the widening gulf between the military government and the NLD over progress towards national reconciliation and reform.

Burma has been under the control of the military since 1962, and despite a landslide election victory in 1990, the NLD has never taken up power. The NLD leaders continue to be harassed and arrested by the military.

Nearly three years of work by the United Nations for reconciliation and reform have led to the release of about 600 political prisoners, but officials now worry the dialogue between the military and the opposition has stalled again.