Did Mongolia’s Minister of Public Works Recently Set Himself on Fire?

On February 16, 2022, this video went up the internet showing an unidentified man setting himself on fire. Quite a number of tweets suggested that this was Mongolia’s minister of public works. Another post with similar claims shared on Facebook added that after the minister allegedly failed to build 100,000 houses, he called a press conference where he set himself on fire. 

Shared from different African countries, this account believed to be of a user from Ghana, went as far as challenging Ghanaian politicians to do the same. 

Background

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia with a population of over 3.3 million. 32% of its population lives below the poverty line with one quarter surviving on less than USD 1.25 a day. 

According to the World Bank, by 2011, Mongolia was listed as the world’s fastest growing economy with a great contribution from investments in the mining sector. Years later, the economy has faced economic adjustments due to the collapse of these investments and the fall in mineral prices.

Although the country has made good progress in reducing poverty, the World Bank suggests, “policy adjustments targeting vulnerable people living below the poverty line are needed to help mitigate the social costs of short-term fiscal consolidation.”

Verification

Running a check on this video claiming to show a Mongolian minister setting himself on fire,  this reverse image search shows, the video went up the internet earliest on November 16, 2015. Doused in a flammable liquid, this trade union leader, S.Erdene had called for a press conference to share the problems faced by Mongolian miners. 

During the conference, the Daily Mail quotes him saying, “the government no longer supports our company, families of workers are forced to starve. This is why I will burn myself for the people of Mongolia and our children.”

A few moments into this conference, S.Erdene is then seen slowly directing his right hand towards his chest before striking what looks like a lighter, before going up in flames.

A similar reverse image search leads to this article by Yahoo News UK published on November 17, 2015. 

At the time, Mongolia’s Tavan Tolgoi was looking to transfer the contracts of 200 of its workers to Tavan Tolgoi Joint Venture Company (TTJVCo), in order to reduce operating costs. Such layoffs have not been strange in Mongolia. In 2013, Rio Tinto laid off close to 2,000 workers at one of its mines in Mongolia. 

Verdict

Claims that Mongolia’s minister of public works recently set himself on fire are FALSE. 

This story was produced by Africa Uncensored in partnership with Code for Africa with support from Deutsche Welle Akademie.

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Nyakerario Omari

Nyakerario J. Omari is a Kenyan writer and journalist with a passion for in-depth stories told through documentaries. She has an interest in reporting matters concerning health, crime and human rights.