Myanmar's military rulers celebrated the 58th anniversary of independence from Britain yesterday with a simple flag-hoisting ceremony and a message from the junta chairman accusing major nations of interfering in the affairs of other countries.
A bomb exploded in Bago, 80km north of Yangon, on the eve of the celebrations, but there were no reports of casualties and it was not known if the blast was related to event.
"The blast occurred around 7pm near a school. I heard the explosion but there were no casualties. Security is very tight today in Bago," a Bago resident contacted by phone told a reporter yesterday, insisting on anonymity for fear of reprisals.
"Nowadays, brazen annexation of a nation with the use of force is not as popular as before. However, it is found that some big nations are essaying to interfere in the domestic affairs of others and influence their political, economic, social and cultural traditions," said the message from junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.
No particular country was named, but Myanmar frequently criticizes the US, a strong critic of the junta, for acting like a bully in international affairs.
Meanwhile, the founder of the Free Burma Coalition wrote in a commentary published in London yesterday that Western sanctions on Myanmar are doing "more harm than good."
"After a decade and a half of failed policy, we -- the opposition and the outside world -- need to rethink our approach," Zar Ni wrote in Britain's Independent.
"The current debate ... has been generally simplistic and unhelpful," he wrote.