News / Asia

Cause of Burma Mosque Fire Under Scrutiny

Muslims pray behind the coffins of victims of a fire during a funeral at Yaeway cemetery in Rangoon, April 2, 2013.
Muslims pray behind the coffins of victims of a fire during a funeral at Yaeway cemetery in Rangoon, April 2, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
A fire at a mosque in Burma's largest city, Rangoon, early Tuesday, killed at least 13 children as they were sleeping in their quarters.  Officials say the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring, but it comes just days after sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims in March left 43 people dead, dozens injured and thousands homeless, most of them Muslims. 

Trucks of armed riot police closed off the road leading to the burned mosque in eastern Rangoon. They strung yellow tape in front of the area and stood guard.Behind the tape a couple of hundred onlookers, most of them Muslims who wanted to know what caused this tragedy.

Thant Zaw Oo, a township officer in Botahtaung, said everyone feels very sad for what happened.

He explained that early in the morning, around 2:50, the electric transformer inside the mosque became overheated and caused an electrical short that caused a fire nearby a ladder.  He said, because of the incident, 13 students who were sleeping upstairs in the mosque were blocked in the fire and killed.

It is not clear why the children were trapped in the fire.  Police said a few other children sleeping upstairs were able to escape along with most of the more than 70 other children living in the mosque compound.

Khin Than Soe, a Red Cross worker in Botahtaung, arrived at the scene at 3:00 am.  She helped rescue 30 children from the fire.

She said a fire broke out inside the building, but she did not know exactly what happened to cause it. 

  • People prepare to pray around the coffins of victims of a fire during their funeral at Yaeway cemetery, Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.
  • People carry a coffin during the funeral for victims of a fire at Yaeway cemetery, Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.
  • People reach out to help carry the coffin (unseen) of a victim of a fire during a funeral at Yaeway cemetery, Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.
  • Police stand in front of a mosque and school dormitory that were damaged by a fire in Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.
  • People carry a coffin during a funeral for the victims of a fire at Yaeway cemetery, Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.
  • Muslims pray during a funeral for victims of a fire at Yaeway cemetery, Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.
  • Police stand near a mosque and school dormitory that were damaged by a fire in Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2013.

Tensions building

Despite the rapid conclusion by police and officials that the fire was an accident, the deaths of children inside a mosque are likely to draw scrutiny concerns following weeks of tension between Buddhists and Muslims.

Sectarian clashes in March in central Burma left 43 people dead, most of them Muslims.

The fighting erupted after a commercial dispute between a Muslim gold shop owner and a Buddhist customer escalated into mob violence and looting.

Buddhist mobs targeted Muslim neighborhoods, burning thousands of homes and destroying a number of mosques.

The sectarian unrest spread as far south as the outskirts of Rangoon before the military and police were able to restore order.

Satellite photos released by Human Rights Watch show entire neighborhoods burned to the ground.

Burmese President Thein Sein blamed instigators for threatening the country's reforms and promised to take action against those responsible.

But Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said authorities have, so far, held few accountable.

“The government and the police have been effectively silent on this," Robertson noted. "You know, it's left to the president to make a sort of a welcome speech to set the tone, but again, does this trickle down to any sort of action to protect people's lives on the ground?”

The sectarian violence echoes last year's clashes in western Rakhine state that killed close to 200 people and left 120,000 others displaced, most of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid