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Report: Government Troops Started Blaze In Burma

February 18, 1989

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Rampaging Burmese government troops set fires that razed nearly 4,000 buildings in a southeastern city and shot at residents who tried to extinguish the blazes, a newspaper reported today.

According to official Burmese accounts, a faulty electrical wire started Thursday’s blaze in Mergui, which destroyed 3,900 buildings and left 23,000 people homeless.

However, the English-language newspaper Bangkok Post today quoted a Thai merchant in touch with colleagues in Burma as saying government troops threw firebombs into homes and sprayed residences with machine-gun fire in four areas of the city.

According to the newspaper account, the troops were angry at the city’s warm reception to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who campaigned in Mergui late last month.

The warm welcome reportedly was in sharp contrast to that given the daughter of former president and military strongman Ne Win when she came to Mergui earlier in February.

The newspaper account could not be confirmed in Rangoon.

The Burmese military seized power in September after several months of pro- democracy demonstrations. The protesters had demanded an end to 26 years of authoritarian rule.

The new junta has promised elections early next year and has allowed opposition parties to campaign in provincial areas.

Mergui, a prosperous business center with 60,000 residents, is 350 miles southeast of Rangoon.

Update hourly