Use of landmines by the Tatmadaw near infrastructure has occurred for decades. In particular around the Lawpita electrical generating dam in Kayah State and around power pylons distributing the electricity from that dam.
New allegations of use of antipersonnel landmines around the base of telecommunications towers is highly troubling. Telecom towers, in particular those of the military owned Mytel telcom firm, have been attacked by anti-regime groups in recent months. Allegations of antipersonnel landmine use near these towers in response to these attacks has subsequently grown.
Damage of public infrastructure is a serious crime under Myanmar law. However Myanmar law does not provide the penal sanction of a death sentence for this crime. As such, use of antipersonnel landmines to prevent damage of infrastructure may be an illegal act under existing Myanmar law. As of yet this issue has not been taken before the courts.
According to a Myanmar Now news report, a representative of the Norwegian owned Telnor company stated that Telenor has sent a text message notifications to Telenor subscribers who live near dangerous towers, warning them to stay away from telecoms infrastructure, and that the company has also placed physical warning signs on sites at which landmines were laid that are owned by Telenor and stopped servicing those sites.
As cellular towers are frequently found in or near communities this is particularly alarming. These areas may have been frequented in the past for grazing by animals, or by local footpaths. Antipersonnel landmine use in areas previously known to be safe will increase the risk to the population of mine victimization. Mine Free Myanmar calls for an immediate end to any such use and the removal of all mines already laid near public infrastructure near any human settlements. Mine Free Myanmar also calls on the Attorney General of Myanmar to investigate allegations of antipersonnel mine use by the military for cellular tower protection and determine if the activity is a violation of existing Myanmar law.