Myanmar authorities are blaming unlicensed guides for the mine injuries to two foreign tourists but have yet to implement a programme to clear the mines.
Since 2012, when Myanmar authorities launched peace talks with ethnic armed groups over 600 people have been killed or injured by antipersonnel mines within the country. However the authorities still claim it is too early to clear them.
Authorities have consistently stated that peace talks must reach a certain stage prior to mine clearance. Is this necessary or just an excuse? Mine clearance has started before ceasefire in other countries, such as Colombia where both rebel forces and the Army have collaborated on a mine clearance project as a confidence building measure while talks continue. Last Tuesday, the president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos, stated, “A complete peace is not possible in a country with landmines. A territory with anti-personnel mines is a territory that’s sterile — it’s one without a future.”
In Sudan, joint activities by the former foes launched joint mine clearance preceded, and built enough confidence, to launch ceasefire talks which led to the comprehensive peace accord.
As long as mines are in the ground, the people of the country will still not enjoy the experience of peace. To build peace the sides should certainly talk, but taking concrete actions such as mine clearance would be a clear manifestation of a will to peace. It would provide an immediate ‘peace dividend’ in Myanmar/Burma’s war ravaged communities.
Undoubtedly guides in the country could use more training, and licensing is probably a good thing. But don’t blame them for becoming mine victims and unknowingly leading people to a dangerous area. If you need to blame someone, blame those who laid the mines……
For background, see: Ministry cracks down on illegal tourist guides, Myanmar Times, 10 May 2016
Quotation of President Juan Manuel Santos made 3 May 2016. Article can be found here: Can Colombia be landmine-free in 5 years?