False posts about 'bomb blast at Myanmar Buddhist site' misuse old images

·4 min read

Burmese-language blogs have repeatedly shared four photos and a video clip which they claim show an explosion at Myanmar's landmark Shwedagon pagoda during a public holiday for a Buddhist festival on July 12, 2022. While a bomb went off near a shopping mall in Yangon that day, a representative for the Shwedagon pagoda told AFP there was no explosion at the Buddhist site. The photos in the posts that show explosions were taken in Lebanon and Somalia -- not Myanmar -- while the video shows an unrelated incident.

"Many died after a bomb blast at the Shwedagon pagoda on full moon day," reads the Burmese-laguage title to this blog that shared the images and video on July 14, 2022.

The images form a collage with superimposed Burmese-language text that translates as: "Many died on full moon day / Bomb blast at the Shwedagon pagoda / 68 civilians died and 8 vehicles burned down to ashes."

A bomb blast near a Yangon shopping mall on the afternoon of July 12 killed two people and wounded eleven, rescue workers and local media said.

The explosion took place as the country celebrated the full moon day of warso that marks the first sermon given by the Buddha.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken July 15, 2022

The images and video were also published alongside a similar claim in blogs here, here and here.

Links to some of the blogs were also shared on Facebook here, here and here.

However, a member of the Shwedagon pagoda's board of trustees told AFP that there was no explosion at the Buddhist pagoda on July 12.

"People came to the pagoda until 8:00pm. Over 257,000 visitors came to the pagoda on full moon day," the board member said.

Combined reverse image and keyword searches on Google found the images and video in the blogs have been shared in a false context.

Shwedagon pagoda photo

The first image shows the Shwedagon pagoda and was published here on a news outlet called Myanmar Digital News run by the Myanmar Ministry of Information on Mar 9, 2020.

Its caption states the image was taken during the full moon day of Tabaung, the final month of Burmese lunar calendar.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading posts (left) and the photo published by Myanmar Digital News (right):

A screenshot comparison between the misleading blog post’s photo (left) and Myanmar Digital News’s photo (right)

Unrelated bombing photos

The second image is an AFP photo of an explosion in Lebanon's capital Beirut in 2013.

The photo was captioned: "Civilians gather at the [site] of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburb neighbourhood of Bir al-Abed on July 9, 2013.

"A car bomb rocked Beirut's southern suburbs, stronghold of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement, wounding 15 people, television reports and a military source said."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (left) and the AFP photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (left) and the AFP photo (right)

The third image shows another AFP photo -- published on October 16, 2017 -- that shows the aftermath of a blast in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

Its caption reads in part: "Somali ambulances carrying severely injured patients from the latest explosion in Mogadishu await to access the airport where the wounded will be evacuated on Turkish military planes on October 16, 2017."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading blog (left) and the AFP photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading blog (left) and the AFP photo (right)

Myanmar coup photo

The fourth image was previously published here by local media DVB on February 15, 2021 after the Myanmar military took over the country in a coup which detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The photo caption reads: "A lot of soldiers and police stand guard in front of the Myanmar Central Bank and its Yangon branch."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading blog (left) and the DVB News photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading blog (left) and the DVB News photo (right)

Unrelated video

The video shared in the posts contains the same photo collage as its thumbnail.

However, nowhere in the clip was an actual explosion shown.

Instead, it features a narrator talking about a robbery that killed a university student who carried a lot of cash after withdrawing money from a bank on July 11, 2022.

The incident corresponds to this local news report.

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