Mandalay Chief Minister Facing Negligence Charge for House Fire

By Zarni Mann 24 April 2014

MANDALAY — The divisional chief minister in Mandalay is facing negligence charges after a fire broke out at his home last week.

According to police, the fire at Chief Minister Ye Myint’s home was caused by an overheated surge protector connected to an air conditioning unit. A case was opened by police in Mandalay’s Aung Myay Thar San Township on Wednesday.

“Since the minister is the head of his home and the most responsible person for the fire at his home, police filed a case against him,” said a duty officer who requested that he not be identified by name.

“The penalty for his negligence will be known only after the court hearing,” he added.

Police say the fire broke out around 8 pm on Saturday and affected parts of the two-story house’s first floor. Damage was estimated at 1.1 million kyats (US$1,145).

Authorities’ handling of the incident has been widely criticized, however, by Mandalay residents who have questioned why it took so long to bring charges against the minister or make information about the fire publically available.

On the same night, a fire at the Mandalay Hotel, located in the city’s busiest market area, inflicted about 4.2 million kyats’ worth in damages. The next morning, police announced the loss and charged the owner of the hotel with negligence.

Mandalay’s hot and dry climate makes the city particularly fire-prone and residents are mindful to take precautionary measures as a result, adding an element of public anger toward a perceived delay in the police’s response to the minister’s house fire on Saturday.

Security personnel assigned to Ye Myint also reportedly interfered in emergency crew efforts to extinguish the fire and prevented journalists from taking pictures or recording video of the blaze. A photojournalist with The Irrawaddy was told he could not photograph the scene of the fire, with no explanation for the prohibition provided.

Security guards at the minister’s home reportedly stopped some firemen from entering the compound because the emergency responders were not wearing full uniforms.

The chief official of the division that includes Burma’s second-biggest city last made national headlines in late January, when his convoy was hit by an explosive device that injured two people. Ye Myint was not harmed in the blast.