Fire Razes More Than 50 Structures in Sittwe IDP Camp

By Moe Myint 24 May 2017

RANGOON – A fire destroyed 11 houses and 42 shops in Thae Chaung internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in the Arakan State capital of Sittwe on Monday night, police have confirmed to The Irrawaddy.

According to Lt-Col Win Naung of the Sittwe district police, there were no casualties in the incident. Investigators have learned that the fire likely began in the wiring in a meter box near an electronics shop and then spread.

Lt-Col Win Naung added that the modest thatched roof bamboo huts—which had an estimated total value of just 2.7 million kyats (less than US$2,000)—could not withstand the blaze.

“Houses are very small here, unlike in Rangoon. The shops are densely constructed and their width is merely 10 feet,” the police officer said.

According to aid organization estimates, Thae Chaung is home to more than 11,000 Muslims who self-identify as Rohingya, and are among the 100,000 people displaced by riots in 2012.

Thae Chaung resident U Kyaw Hla Aung told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Tuesday that fire burned for almost two hours, starting at around 9 p.m. Due to a water shortage, he explained that the community could not contain the blaze.

U Kyaw Hla Aung also corroborated the police statement that the fire had started from wiring.

Lt-Col Win Naung said that the authorities detained the owner of the shop using the meter box where the fire started, but have yet to open a case under Article 285 of the penal code, which outlines punishments for negligently starting a fire.

The article states that anyone who causes a potentially life threatening fire shall be penalized with a maximum of three years in prison and a fine.