Landmine toll set to surpass previous years in eastern Myanmar

A state’s administrators have warned residents against returning to their homes after clashes.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.02
Landmine toll set to surpass previous years in eastern Myanmar Members of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force clearing landmines on March 31, 2022.
Kantarawaddy Times

Thirty people have been injured or killed by landmines in an eastern Myanmar state this year, officials there said, highlighting a problem that the U.N. children’s agency says has made Myanmar one of the world’s most heavily mined countries.

Civilian officials in Kayah State have warned villagers wanting to go home in areas abandoned by the military junta to get the approval of anti-junta forces before venturing back because of the danger of mines.

“Those who fled the war are now returning. It’s been a month or two and they are coming back,” Ba Nyar, secretary  of the Karenni Interim Executive Council, told Radio Free Asia.

While the landmine toll has risen sharply this year, Ba Nyar said Kayah State has had nearly 100 landmine victims since Myanmar’s conflict surged after a 2021 coup, when the military ousted an elected government triggering an intensifying campaign by fighters determined to end army rule.

The council on Wednesday told residents not to go home without getting clearance from anti-junta forces and it appealed for residents to report any mines of unexploded ordnance in their neighborhoods.

A 14-year-old boy was killed by a landmine in Demoso township’s Pu Hpar village while herding cattle on Sunday.

The anti-junta Progressive Karenni People’s Force said civilian toll from mines had surged since anti-junta forces launched an offensive in November with a strategy aimed at seizing territory from junta control, a member of the anti-junta force said.

Retreating junta forces had left a deadly legacy, he said.

“There are many landmines planted,” said the insurgent group member, who declined to be identified. “Villagers have stepped on and been hit by landmines. Some have lost their legs and hands.”

Karenni forces have captured seven towns – Kayah State’s Mese, Demoso, Ywar Thit, Shadaw, Mawchee, and Shan State’s Moe Bye and Nan Mei Khon - since launching their Operation 1111 offensive.

The U.N. Children’s Fund said in a report last month that civilian deaths and injuries from landmines and unexploded ordnance throughout Myanmar had nearly tripled to 1,052 in 2023, from 390 the previous year.

The humanitarian group said 118 people, including 59 children, were killed by mines in 20023 and it called on all sides in the conflict to protect civilians and “take immediate steps to halt the use of these indiscriminate weapons.".

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

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