At least four people were killed and seven injured in a major explosion near the central market on Wednesday in Pangkham (Panghsang), located in the Wa Self-Administered Division in eastern Shan State, according to a source close to the town’s local authorities.
While details of the blast, which occurred at around noon and is suspected of having been caused by a bomb, were still unclear at the time of reporting, the source confirmed that most of the victims were local residents.
“We still don’t know who the culprits are. There are a lot of restaurants around the explosion site and [the victims] were civilians,” he told Myanmar Now.
A spokesperson for the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which controls the area in question, said that the incident was under investigation.
In a 24-second video filmed immediately after the incident and posted on Tik Tok, the explosion appears to have occurred inside a bus terminal, the entire structure of which was destroyed and the surrounding area covered in concrete, metal and plastic debris. The source close to the local authorities confirmed the authenticity of the footage.
Other videos shared on social media depict the same scene, with several uniformed Wa soldiers surveying the aftermath of the explosion alongside first responders carrying injured individuals into trucks and ambulances, with fire trucks standing by. At least two injured women are seen walking away from the blast, one with what appears to be shrapnel wound to the face, her hair matted with blood.
A 40-year-old resident of Pangkham told Myanmar Now that the explosion was the first such incident he had witnessed since moving there 10 years ago from central Myanmar.
“It was so loud that we didn’t immediately know what had happened,” he explained, adding that the blast could be heard “by the whole town.”
By Thursday, he said, regular business had resumed in Pangkham.
The Wa region, referred to colloquially as “Wa State,” is largely isolated from the rest of Myanmar, with entry by outsiders heavily restricted. Pangkham serves as its de-facto capital and the headquarters of the UWSA, an ethnic armed organisation with close ties to neighbouring China.
While there have been guerrilla attacks involving bombs and improvised explosive devices particularly in urban areas throughout Myanmar, such incidents are extremely rare in Wa-controlled territory, which has not seen the same fighting that has enveloped much of the country since the February 2021 military coup.
The UWSA was among the ethnic armed organisations invited to attend so-called “peace talks” with the junta in Naypyitaw earlier this year, a move seen by many analysts as a regime attempt to discourage the powerful group from eventually supporting anti-coup resistance forces.
However, in a May statement, the UWSA’s leadership referred to the post-coup crisis in Myanmar as an “internal affair” of the country’s ethnic Bamar majority, and vowed not to get involved.
“No matter who is in power on the Burmese side, it is an internal affair of the Bamar people. We will not join any side or let the situation get worse,” the group said.