Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, U Wunna Maung Lwin, stated at a meeting in Phnom Penh, that the country is seriously considering joining the Mine Ban Treaty, along with other disarmament conventions, as part of its state reforms. The Foreign Minister was attending a meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers, H.E. PRAK Sokhonn, Minister attached to the Prime Minister of Cambodia, who is this year President of the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.

In a press release issued today in both Phnom Penh and Geneva, Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin  was quoted as saying that his government is no longer using landmines, and is seeking
a peace pact with ethnic armed groups, which would include a ban on mine use.

The Landmine Monitor currently believes that the Myanmar Army is using antipersonnel mines in armed conflict with ethnic rebellions within the country. To date the government has not announced a moratorium on new use by its military forces.

Since late 2011 to early 2012, Tatmadaw units have been accused of laying mines in their armed conflict with the Kachin Independence Army. Human Rights Watch reported that the KIA encountered Tatmadaw mines in Momauk township in October 2011 and that mines had been widely laid by both the KIA and Myanmar Army.[1] In July 2011, the Kachin Independence Army claimed to have seized landmines from captured Tatmadaw soldiers.[2] The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission requested groups in the area to avoid mine use (see earlier section). In March 2012, UNOCHA called for Mine Risk Education for people in Internally Displaced Camps due to reports of landmines laid during armed conflict in their villages of origin in Kachin State.[3]

Also mine use by insurgents enlisted into the Myanmar Army’s Border Guard forces have been accused of mine use. In Oct 2011, BGF laid mines near fields in Myawaddy Twp. in order to interdict KNLA movement. One villager who was hired by the village to serve in the BGF stepped on one of the mines laid by the BGF. The BGF stated that they were under orders to lay 500 mines in the area.[4] In September 2011, BGF laid mines in Htee Klay, Noh Kay, and T’poh Kyaw village tracts of Hpa-an township. They also are alleged to have forced villagers to carry the mines as porters when they did so. Several farm animals have perished on the mines.[5] Also in September, villagers in Myawaddy township stated that both the BGF were laying mines in the area. [6] On 3 January 2012, the Free Burma Rangers reported that BGF forces had told the villagers of Pra Day Mu Village, Hpapun township, not to return to their village because of landmines they had laid in the village.[7] Mine use in armed conflict amongst Karen armed groups has also been recorded.[8]

Myanmar Defense Products Industries (Ka Pa Sa), a state enterprise at Ngyaung Chay Dauk in western Pegu (Bago) division, produces fragmentation and blast antipersonnel mines, including a non-detectable variety.[9] The Monitor has previously reported that, in addition to domestic production, Myanmar has obtained and used antipersonnel mines of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Soviet, and American manufacture, as well as some mines whose origin has not been unidentified.[10]

The ICBL is currently requesting for a halt in new mine use to be included in any ceasefire negotiated between the Government and ethnic armed groups. Landmine Monitor has documented almost 3000 casualties due to antipersonnel mines in the country over the past decade, but official statistics of casualties do not exist and the real number is believed to be far higher.
Until mine use stops, development projects to secure the peace in the conflict areas will not be able to begin. An official announcement of a moratorium on new mine use by the authorities in the country would be a very welcome development.

[1] ‘Isolated in Yunnan: Kachin Refugees from Burma in China’s Yunnan Province”, Human Rights Watch, 26 June 2012 http://bit.ly/MNonuk   , also Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma, Human Rights Watch, Karen Human Rights Group, July 2011, http://bit.ly/n8zdJb

[2] Phanida, “KIO captures seven Burmese soldiers in fighting”, Mizzima, 20 July 2011, http://bit.ly/rqbdru

[3] Humanitarian Situation and Response Plan in Kachin, March 2012 update, UN OCHA. http://bit.ly/zgktMC

[4] “Landmine Information: January 2011 – December 2011, Compiled for Landmine Monitor April 2012”, Karen Human Rights Group.

[5] “Landmine Information: January 2011 – December 2011, Compiled for Landmine Monitor April 2012”, Karen Human Rights Group.

[6] “Pa’an Situation Update: September 2011,” Karen Human Rights Group, November 2011, http://bit.ly/HCl2MZ

[7] FBR, “FBR REPORT: Villager shot and beaten to death on Christmas Eve as Burma Army continues to oppress people in northern Karen State. December 2011.” 30 January 2012, http://bit.ly/xWRlzr

[8] See Landmine Monitor Report for Myanmar/Burma http://www.the-monitor.org/cp/MM/2012

[9]  Myanmar produces the MM1, which is modeled on the Chinese Type-59 stake-mounted fragmentation mine; the MM2, which is similar to the Chinese Type-58 blast mine; a Claymore-type directional fragmentation mine; and a copy of the US M14 plastic mine.

[10]  See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 938. The mines include: Chinese Types-58, -59, -69, -72A; Soviet POMZ-2, POMZ-2M, PMN, PMD-6; US M14, M16A1, M18; and Indian/British LTM-73, LTM-76.

 
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