Last major state user of landmines to join landmine ban treaty?

(Geneva, Friday 13 July 2012): In an unprecedented statement yesterday, Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the government is considering banning antipersonnel landmines. This message gives hope for thousands in the country still living in the deadly shadow of these weapons.

Kasia Derlicka, ICBL director, said: “Never before have any of Myanmar’s officials directly said that they would consider banning landmines by joining the Mine Ban Treaty. While we welcome this announcement we also want to see these words followed by actions very soon. As we have been saying for many years, halting use of mines and joining the Treaty are vital first steps to putting a final end to the landmine threat.”
Mu Che (27) “I lived in Loh Boo village in Hpa-an District, Karen State. When I was 11 years old I stepped on a mine while I was looking after a cow. In my village there is still armed conflict now”. (c) Giovanni Diffidenti/Di+ onlus

Mu Che (27) “I lived in Loh Boo village in Hpa-an District, Karen State. When I was 11 years old I stepped on a mine while I was looking after a cow. In my village there is still armed conflict now”. (c) Giovanni Diffidenti/Di+ onlus

(Geneva, Friday 13 July 2012): In an unprecedented statement yesterday, Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the government is considering banning antipersonnel landmines. This message gives hope for thousands in the country still living in the deadly shadow of these weapons.

Kasia Derlicka, ICBL director, said: “Never before have any of Myanmar’s officials directly said that they would consider banning landmines by joining the Mine Ban Treaty. While we welcome this announcement we also want to see these words followed by actions very soon. As we have been saying for many years, halting use of mines and joining the Treaty are vital first steps to putting a final end to the landmine threat.”

According to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention’s Implementation Support Unit, Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin made these comments at a meeting in Phnom Penh.

He is reported to have claimed that Myanmar is “no longer using landmines and is seeking a peace pact with armed non-State actors which would include banning these weapons.” He said Myanmar is seriously considering all key disarmament treaties, including the Mine Ban Treaty, as part of its new state reforms. He also said that Myanmar will attend the next Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, being held in Geneva this coming December.

Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin was in Cambodia for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, and made his announcement at a high level discussion with His Excellency Prak Sokhon of Cambodia, who is presiding over the Mine Ban Treaty this year.

Myanmar is the only country in the world which has used antipersonnel mines every year since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force, according to the Landmine Monitor. No reliable estimate of the extent of contamination by mines exists, but Landmine Monitor has documented use in nine of the country’s 14 provinces. Ongoing civil conflict between government forces and armed groups has been the cause of this scourge, and year on year the ICBL has urged the use of this indiscriminate weapon to stop. Both army units and numerous non-state armed groups have laid the mines.

In light of today’s encouraging news, the ICBL again calls on all parties involved in the conflict to publicly and unilaterally announce a moratorium on new mine use, to prevent further devastating harm to civilians.

“Until mine use in Myanmar stops, development in the conflict areas to secure the peace cannot begin,” said ICBL focal point on Myanmar, Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan.

There is no official tally of the number of people who have lost their lives or their limbs to mines laid in the country, but Landmine Monitor has identified almost 3000 during the past decade. Over the past five years Myanmar has ranked the third highest, globally, in the number of mine victims caused by antipersonnel mine pollution within the country.

“We will be watching closely to see how these words translate into actions and stand ready to assist Myanmar in its efforts.” said Derlicka.

“We truly hope Myanmar’s forces have stopped using landmines once and for all and the government is serious about joining the treaty. Myanmar should follow up on this announcement immediately by marking mined areas and beginning clearance of the land, as well as putting concrete measures in place to assist its many victims,” she added.

For in-depth analysis and the most up to date comments on the landmine situation in Burma / Myanmar please visit the Halt Mine Use in Burma / Myanmar website

 
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