Authorities Say No Signs of Foul Play in Islamic School Fire

Police and ambulance staff stand outside a Muslim boarding school in Rangoon on April 2, 2013, hours after a fire broke out killing 13 students. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burmese officials have wasted no time in attempting to quash rumors that a fire that killed 13 students at a Muslim boarding school in Rangoon’s Botahtaung Township early Tuesday morning had been deliberately set.

“Some people are saying that the school was torched, but it isn’t true. What the investigators found when they got there was that it was caused by an electrical fault,” said Rangoon Division Chief Minister Myint Swe at a hastily organized press conference on Tuesday.

The chief minister said that the victims of the fire had all died of asphyxiation as a result of smoke inhalation, and that the rumors of arson had been spread to “cover the negligence” of those responsible for the children’s safety.

Rangoon Division Police Chief Win Naing confirmed that the fire and the deaths of the children were being treated as cases of criminal negligence, and that charges would be laid against two boarding-school masters.

“The fire at the school was not started by outsiders. Private security personnel guarding the area told us that they didn’t see any strangers in the neighborhood last night,” the police chief added.

The fire at the two-story school began at around 3 am and was extinguished within around 15 minutes, according to Myint Aye, an official from the township fire brigade. “There was no explosion, so the fire didn’t cause much devastation. Only the interior was damaged, including the upstairs floor,” he said.

The victims—who were among 73 boys residing at the school—are all believed to have been in their early teens or younger.

Police officials who spoke to The Irrawaddy confirmed the government’s version of what happened.

“According to our preliminary investigation, we believe that an electrical fault in a voltage step-up transformer inside the school caused the fire,” said Police Lt-Col Myint Aung. “We are now embarking on a thorough inquiry.”

However, people close to the school say they continue to believe that there may have been some foul play.

“The fire broke out under the staircase, where we found some pieces of diesel-soaked cloth near a ladder,” said Win Myint, a former student who went into the school immediately after the fire was put out.

“Yes, we suspect it may have been arson,” said another former student who asked not to be named.

To allay such suspicions, the Rangoon Division government met with five Muslim groups on Tuesday morning to form an investigation commission, Chief Minister Myint Swe said at today’s press conference.

Haj. Kyaw Soe, the secretary of the All Burma Moulvi Federation, said his organization would cooperate with the government to find out the cause of the blaze. He said, however, that it was still too soon to accept the government’s preliminary findings.

“I feel it is too early to say if this was caused by an electrical fault. It would be better to investigate first to know the root cause of this fire,” he said.

16 Responses to Authorities Say No Signs of Foul Play in Islamic School Fire

  1. After the investigation that establishes the root cause of the fire, authorities must punish either the real culprit or those two former students who incite the unnecessary disturbances. People should take lessons that loose tongues have consequences.

  2. Sad and sorry for all the innocent children died .

  3. The government should not panic and jump into conclusion that the fire started from the electrical shock. Even if it is true, it may be secondary. Thorough investigation is thus needed first.

  4. The preliminary finding of the cause of fire is not very convincing in the absence of any tangible material evidence. An honest, thorough, relentless and unbiased inquiry is fundamental in establishing the real cause of the blaze so that truth and justice can be served. If the fire was a result of arson it it imperative that the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice regardless of the culprits’ religion, ethnicity or nationality.

    If we really care to see peace and progress in our country’s transformation toward a democratic nation, we all need to practice religious tolerance, understanding, and above all, mitta. Whether we are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus or atheists we must show respect to the existence of others, their religions, their cultures, their ethnicity, and their personal beliefs.

    Only the rule of law, respect for the human rights of others and democratic principles can guard against anarchy, violence and destruction among different communities and religions.

  5. To get to the truth the government should call in independent foreign experts who could be in Myanmar within 24 hours and who are highly experienced in forensic analysis of fire scenes. Their report would take less than 48 hours to be made. It is sad to know that when 20 children died in a school shooting in the USA recently that Obama offered the condolences on the US, met the children’s parents and even attended a public funeral ceremony but Thein Sein and the Lady do nothing in this instance. Would it be different if they were not Muslim children? Their silence is deafening.

  6. Is not it too quick to blame School heads before thorough investigation is carried out?. More than 800 houses were burn down in Myktilla. We came to know this through satellite images. How many years are youu going to cheat the people ” Junta Thugs”?.

  7. UN, US and EU showed their feeling for the victims, young students who died from the fire . I believe Burmese President is laughing in a corner of his office.

  8. When there was fake rape case in Arkan state, authority found three Muslims rapists and gave death sentence to two and one hanged himself in Jail as per government mouth piece When ten Muslims were killed by mob in Taung Goke, no witness dared to come out and no arrest were made.! as per GOVT.
    For Rakine and Rohingya ( Bengali Kalar ) conflict of last year Dr. Aye Tun of Rohingya community was sentence to twelve years for inciting the people to attack Rakine.
    The main man who incited to kill Bangali Kalar – Dr. Aye Maung was selected as chief member for facts finding commission to investigate the true facts for conflicts. Lot of Muslims were killed in Rakhine state last year and whole village was burnt down in Kyawk Pue. No one was arrested for this arsenal.
    Same thing happened in Myktilla and the inciter notorious Monk Wirathu become more darling of Junta Thugs.
    Burmese Government has full responsibility for those genocide. They should be booked and brought to ICC for crime against humanity.

    • Zaw Min, you’re another Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who rejects Osama Bin Laden confession about responsible for 9/11 and Holocaust denier.
      Out of respect for victim who was rape, robbed and murdered by 3 descendent of illegal Bengali migrants.
      You’re accusing everyone without any evidences and prove. Why don’t you give your evidences to ICC or HRW if you have solid evidence?

      • you neo-nazi blind man. if u cant use good reasoning and good english, dont meddle in serious affairs.

      • Are you sure bin Ladin had confessed that he was the mastermind behind 9/11attack? According to numerous reports even by trigger-happy western media like Fox, he merely came out to show his support for the attack. They do not have it on record saying ‘I did it’ by bin Ladin. That’s why he was executed without trial and buried in sea. There is just too much dirty laundry to wash in public.

    • Zaw Win you thought about about changing your name to Mohammad Bin Ladin.

  9. This is amazing the government and local authorities were able to find the cause of fire in a few hours. How can I believe that that was the true cause of fire? I am so sorry for these kids’ parents and relatives. It looks like a DEMON is running all over Burma. Should the Burmese president Thein Sein get nominated for Noble Peace Prize? Do you really believe that the Burmese government is willing to change the country to a peaceful, disciplined democratic country? I have no doubt that the current government cannot run the country anymore. There is an urgent need in Burma is unity. We must have unity, trust, and courage to conquer these kinds of brutalities. I am definitely sure we will have to see more attacks on the ethnic minorities and the other religions. Will there be justice in Burma? Will there be peace in Burma? Will there be love in Burma? When can we see the true color of Burmese government?

  10. No smart person is working for the Thein Sein administration. Without knowing the cause of fire, the government jumped on conclusion. It is the evidence of stupidity. Arson happens or not, investigation must be done. After finding the cause of fire, conclusion must be drawn and ruled out. Now, the government is showing its incompetency.

  11. 1, investigate how the fire broke out really. Then take the action.
    2, why poor kids couldn’t escape or were evacuated on time (only 15 minutes of fire)?
    (Perhaps, the fire began at around 3 am and all were asleep & nobody aware & died of smoke inhalation.)
    3, 73 boys were residing at about 50’ x 25’ two -story building, so called boarding school? Is there any health & safety standard guide line for boarding school?
    4, wrong prejudiced would result in racial & religious tension.
    5, don’t take any advantage with this event & don’t put the blame to the lady who is innocent & she has to clean other’s mess all the time. Forget about Obama who is a puppet of shadowy government but think about your president who is the softest among the hard liners & expect what he can do well for you.
    6, don’t get influence of other countries’ religious leaders & don’t trust corrupted authority but judge yourself, otherwise, you are not you are but you are other’s puppet.

  12. Why Amad Din Nejad and Bin Laden here. We are writing comments on Burmese and Burma. .I am using my correct name. Not using fake christian and shan name like others.

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