May 25, 2024

Social media posts falsely claimed a video of a fire in the Philippines showed the situation in western Myanmar, where fighting intensified between the Burmese military and ethnic rebel groups from January 2024. The clip in fact showed a massive blaze that left thousands homeless in the Philippines’ central Cebu province in December 2023.

“Most of you Arakans asked for war and attacked the military base in Minbya. The army retreated because they didn’t want civilian casualties. But you support AA and other terrorists, now don’t cry,” read the Burmese-language caption of a Facebook post published on February 20, 2024.

The accompanying video, which showed a massive blaze engulfing houses on stilts by a body of water as thick black smoke billowed into the sky, was viewed more than 2,900 times.

The Arakan dialect text superimposed on the video read: “I don’t know what to do, can’t reach my home or call anyone in Minbya. I hope everyone in Minbya is safe.”

The town of Minbya is located in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, where the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed group founded in 2009, has been fighting the Burmese junta for autonomy (archived links here and here).

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Screenshot taken on March 1, 2024 of the misleading post ” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/video-of-massive-fire-in-central-philippines-falsely-linked-to-conflict-in-western-myanmar.jpg”><img alt="Screenshot taken on March 1, 2024 of the misleading post ” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/video-of-massive-fire-in-central-philippines-falsely-linked-to-conflict-in-western-myanmar.jpg” class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot taken on March 1, 2024 of the misleading post

Myanmar’s junta has struggled to crush widespread armed opposition to its rule since it staged a military coup in February 2021 and launched a violent crackdown on dissent as mass protests spread throughout the Southeast Asian nation.

The video circulated online as the region saw intensifying clashes between the military and the AA for control of townships in the state.

It also racked up more than 2.6 million views alongside similar false claims on TikTok here, here, and here.

But the video is unrelated to the conflict in Myanmar and in fact showed a fire in the Philippines in December 2023.

2023 Cebu Fire

A Google reverse image search followed by keyword searches found a similar video on TikTok, uploaded on December 12, 2023 (archived link).

“This is the Christmas gift to us here in Pusok, Lapu-Lapu, Cebu City,” reads the caption written in Visayan — a language commonly spoken in central Philippines.

Pusok is a neighbourhood in Lapu-Lapu City in the Philippines’ central Cebu province.

A person can be heard in the video shouting “lola” — Filipino for “grandmother”.

“I could not find you, I was so scared,” the Visayan-language speaker is heard saying at the video’s 27-second mark.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video from the false post (left) and the video shared on TikTok (right), with corresponding features marked by AFP:

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Screenshot comparison of the video from the false post (left) and the video shared on TikTok (right), with corresponding features marked by AFP” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/video-of-massive-fire-in-central-philippines-falsely-linked-to-conflict-in-western-myanmar-1.jpg”><img alt="Screenshot comparison of the video from the false post (left) and the video shared on TikTok (right), with corresponding features marked by AFP” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/video-of-massive-fire-in-central-philippines-falsely-linked-to-conflict-in-western-myanmar-1.jpg” class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot comparison of the video from the false post (left) and the video shared on TikTok (right), with corresponding features marked by AFP

The same user also uploaded other videos and photos of the fire taken from different angles (archived links here and here).

Cebu-based media outlet The Freeman reported a massive blaze had struck the seaside neighbourhood of Santa Maria in Lapu-Lapu City on December 12, 2023, leaving thousands homeless after the biggest fire in the city’s history (archived link).

It also uploaded a video of the fire to its official Facebook page on December 12, 2023 (archived link).

Online news outlet GMA News also published footage showing similar scenes from the fire in a report on December 12, 2023 (archived link).

The affected area with the houses on stilts can be seen from Google Street View imagery here (archived link):

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Screenshot of the Google Street View imagery showing the neighbourhood in Lapu-Lapu City affected by the fire.” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/video-of-massive-fire-in-central-philippines-falsely-linked-to-conflict-in-western-myanmar-2.jpg”><img alt="Screenshot of the Google Street View imagery showing the neighbourhood in Lapu-Lapu City affected by the fire.” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/video-of-massive-fire-in-central-philippines-falsely-linked-to-conflict-in-western-myanmar-2.jpg” class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot of the Google Street View imagery showing the neighbourhood in Lapu-Lapu City affected by the fire.

AFP has previously debunked claims related to the conflict in Myanmar involving ethnic rebel groups here and here.

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