In the photograph to the right, lies a youth 17 year old in a poorly equipped hospital in Mongkaing Township, in central Shan State.
His mother and another relative hold his hands as he fights for life. In November 2021, he was returning home with a buffalo when they triggered an antipersonnel landmine. The buffalo died instantly.
The 17 year old boy survived the initial blast with serious wounds to his upperbody, head and face.
By nightfall of the day this picture was taken he was dead.
We don’t know his name.
We don’t know who laid that landmine.
Villagers say that on the day previous to this landmine incident, two ethnic armed groups had clashed in the place. They believe one of them is responsible.
The news of this landmine casualty in Myanmar was barely reported. We found it as a notice in Burmese on a Facebook page Shwe Phi Myay News, a local journal in northern Shan State. Nothing appeared in the Myanmar national press, and nothing appeared in English anywhere.
Two months later, a rat died in Cambodia. Admittedly it was not an ordinary rat, it was an African pouch rat trained by a mine clearance charity to sniff out explosive dangers in fields. The rat has a name. Magwe. He was given an award by a UK animal charity for saving humans from danger.
Magwe’s death, by comparison, was international news. This is not an exhaustive list, but news items long and short of the death of this rat were published by Newsweek, the BBC, Xinhua, the Guardian, ABC news, the New York Post, CNN, Channel News Asia, Reuters, Al Jazeera, France 24, People Magazine, Canadian CBC, NBC, the Indian Express, and NHK.
Of course we all feel uplifted by the stories of animals which have devoted their lives to human well being as epitomized by this mine clearing African pouch rat. And good news is unfortunately a rare quantity these days. However it is none-the-less disturbing that while we are celebrating the protection of human life that the rat was enabling, one of those human live could, needlessly, pass away un-noticed and un-named at one and the same time.