Antipersonnel landmines continue to be produced in state-owned factories in Myanmar while resistance groups employ improvised landmines.
Antipersonnel mine blasts claimed 88 lives in Myanmar in 2021, according to UNICEF’s mine action team in Myanmar. Another 196 individuals were maimed for life. Children represent 27 per cent of casualties from landmines or other similar explosive remnants of war – 19 among the 88 dead and 55 children were injured as a result of mines exploding, UNICEF’s data shows.
The figures, covering 284 casualties from 169 different landmine blast incidents suggest a 113 per cent jump in the caseload of landmine incidents in 2020.
Leading the list of incidents is the Shan state that shouldered about 38 per cent of the total casualties from 66 blast incidents. Landmine blasts killed 32 people, including seven children. Shan is particularly vulnerable as it borders China to the north, Laos to the east and Thailand to its south.
The Kachin and Rakhine states followed, accounting for 18 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. Rakhine accounted for the highest rate of child casualties with 44 per cent of the total.
The combination of the other areas including Bago, Chin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Magway, Sagaing and Tanintharyi accounted for 27 per cent of the total casualties.
“Landmines continue to be planted as a method of warfare, obstructing the movement of civilians and provision of humanitarian aid,” says the international campaign to ban landmines (ICBL).
Myanmar’s mined areas are located adjacent to the country’s borders with Bangladesh, China, India, and Thailand. New mines continue to be laid by both the military and non-State armed groups.
Even on roads
While people and organisations like ICBL involved in landmine monitoring are not exactly aware of the extent of mines planted in the country, they do confirm that mines continue to be produced in state-owned factories.
In the meanwhile, resistance groups also employ improvised landmines. The planting of mines impedes the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
In June 2021, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines had voiced concern over reports of new antipersonnel mine use and civilian casualties due to landmines and other explosive ordnance in the country, especially following the coup by the military in February 2021. The coup was followed by violent crackdowns and fighting between the Myanmar military and two newly formed non-State armed groups, the ethnic armed group and the people’s defence forces.
Tom Andrews the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, had said on 8 June, “I have received distressing reports that junta forces are laying landmines on public roads.” Andrews was referring to reports from the Kayah State.