A Month of Fires in Thantlang, Myanmar


Since October 29, numerous fires have severely damaged Thantlang, a remote town in northwest Chin State, Myanmar. The evidence of space is undeniable: residential homes, places of worship, commercial buildings, etc. were reduced to ashes.

To monitor the situation, Human Rights Watch used data provided by the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), which distributes near real-time thermal anomalies (NRT) and active fire data within three hours of the event. satellite observation using MODIS and VIIRS instruments.

These environmental satellites have detected several thermal anomalies over the city of Thantlang on at least 10 different dates over the past month, day and night.

* The animation above shows thermal anomaly data showing fire activity in Thantlang City, Chin State, Myanmar, from October 29 to November 29, 2021. The dates correspond to the Myanmar local time. © 2021 NASA FIRMS.

Human Rights Watch also examined dozens of satellite images collected by PlanetScope, a constellation of satellites operated by the Planet company, which capture the entire world every day at a resolution of three meters. Human Rights Watch was unable to estimate the total number of buildings destroyed, due to the spatial resolution of the images, but before and after satellite imagery helped confirm the location of the most severely damaged areas. , as indicated in the thermal anomaly data.

Satellite imagery and thermal anomaly data corroborated several reports of fires in Thantlang, including aerial photos and videos of fires and damaged buildings that appeared on social networks over the past month, as well as reports of local media and human rights groups.

Evidence shows that the damage did not result from a single large fire that spread through the city, but from numerous fires that started in different parts of the city over several days, suggesting they were deliberately on.

It is not known exactly how these fires started. The Burmese army and the anti-militia junta fighting the army blamed each other for the fires. Over the past month, local media have reported brief clashes between the Burmese military and anti-junta militias in the area. The city has been largely uninhabited since September, when most of its population fled due to previous fighting. Independent observers are needed to determine what is going on in Chin State. Relevant governments and the United Nations should push for unhindered access to humanitarian agencies. Coordinated sanctions are needed against those responsible for the abuses.

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