A meeting was held in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss the need for mine clearance, but did not discuss implementation of a landmine ban.

After the meeting, this week, in an interview with the Myanmar Times, U Tun Zaw, Deputy Director General of the Department of Disaster Management was quoted as stating, “We can’t do rescue work only. If landmines remain, victims will remain. It is better if there are no more landmines. We plan to form a national body for landmine clearing.”

It would certainly be better if there were no more landmines. 12 additional townships were identified in 2019 as having some level of contamination. A total of 90 townships has been identified by the Landmine Monitor to contain some level of contamination of landmines, and atleast 5 of those townships had no known landmine contamination prior to 2019.

The urgency for ‘no more landmines’ is clear. However, is a mine action center in Myanmar viable, and can it be effective, if the military and other armed actors do not first agree to halt new use?

Today in Myanmar there is an industry to produce mines. Factories have been built, and technicians trained. Machinery has been bought as have raw materials. The budget for all this assigned. The raw materials are sourced both from within and outside the country and arrive on a schedule to be milled and formed. Five different types of antipersonnel landmines are produced in Myanmar’s factories. Arsenals have been built to house them and the staff have been hired and trained in storage and accounting and a budget is assigned for this too. A distribution system, covering the entire country has been developed and maintained, and the vehicles and staff are also assigned and budgeted. The mines are then distributed to people who go through training to use them, who are also paid. All the above are Myanmar governmental expenditures.

Now, on the other side, is a proposal for a counter-mine programme. Which government department is going to rationalize providing a budget to neutralize what another department of government is actively engaged in doing? If not a department of the Myanmar government, who would provide the budget? Will a counter-mine programme be pursued as actively, and with the same intention, planning and budget as production, distribution and use? Is it rational to have opposing activities launched by different sections of the same government?

In no other country in the world does a mine action center exist alongside a military which continues to actively lay landmines. It is easy to see why – the two activities go in opposite directions.

A proposal for a mine action center in Myanmar today, without the precondition of a halt in use, would imitate one of the technical masterpieces produced by the artist MC Escher, in which a stairway connects to itself and people can either ascend or descend, on the same stairway, forever. Some on the stairway continually going up, while others continue to descend, on the exact same stairway. While it is possible to create this illusion on paper, in reality it is not.