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Water festival attacks kill 3 during Myanmar coup leader’s holiday

Missile attacks on two universities in a holiday town in Myanmar killed three and injured eight, residents told Radio Free Asia on Monday. 

During coup leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s Thingyn – or water festival – visit to Mandalay division’s Pyinoolwin city on Sunday, an unknown group fired more than 15 missiles at two military universities. The blasts, which hit the Defense Services Academy and Defense Services Technology Academy, also damaged a department of a nearby hospital and Aung Myay Zaya monastery. 

The missiles injured five civilians when they landed on Pyinoolwin Hospital’s orthopedics department, said one Pyinoolwin resident, declining to be named for security reasons. 

“The two monks who died were people who wore robes during the Thingyn period. They died when the explosion happened near them,” he said, describing civilians who temporarily become monks to observe Myanmar’s new year water festival. “The last man who died on the spot was in Ward No. 8. Another three people were injured in this neighborhood alone.”

Following the attack, tourists who came for the holiday and some permanent residents fled the city, he added. 

From 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, about 40 shots and explosions could be heard, said one Pyinoolwin resident who was near the site of the attack. 

“After the sound of the missiles, Defense Services Academy and Defense Services Technology Academy troops cut the power. The military and social aid vehicles were busy,” he said, declining to be named for fear of reprisals. “I knew they fell in the area of the Defense Services Academy.”

Staff at Pyinoolwin Hospital are preparing to move patients to Mandalay Hospital, while junta soldiers are conducting security checks around the city, residents said. 

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks yet, but residents told RFA that they were likely carried out from a hill behind the university campuses. 

The junta has not issued any statements about the attacks. RFA called Mandalay division’s junta spokesperson Thein Htay for more information on the attacks, but he did not respond.  

Residents told RFA they believe the attack was carried out because of Min Aung Hlaing’s visit. On Sunday, a bomb exploded near a pavilion in Mandalay city, injuring 12 people. 

Translated by Kiana Duncan. Edited by Mike Firn.