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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs