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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora