In the Amyotha Hluttaw on Monday 26 August, the Deputy Defence Minister Maj-Gen Myint Nwe responded to a parliamentary question posed by MP U Pe Chit, who inquired about the possibility of the government signing the Mine Ban Treaty and launching mine clearance.
According to the Myanmar News Agency the Deputy Defence Minister said, “The signing of the treaty would involve a search and clearance of mine-planted areas within a set period of time and a preparation of a report for submission to the UN Secretary General in 180 days.”
The convention does have an annual reporting process, the first report is due in 180 days of a country acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty. This report contains sections on the country’s laws, its mine stockpile and plans for its destruction, the country’s efforts to assist victims of landmines, and the location of known mined areas. Production of such a report is no impediment to joining the convention now. The government can produce such a report within 6 months, if it wants to.
Clearance has a 10 year framework. If a country cannot clear all mined areas within the first 10 years, extensions are available. This is not an impediment to joining the convention now.
The Deputy Defence Minister was then quoted as stating, “The existence of internal armed conflicts remains an obstacle to the execution of the treaty requirements.”
Why? Fellow ASEAN state, the Philippines, joined the convention long ago, despite the fact that there is still armed conflict in their country with multiple armed groups and an unfinished peace process. The same is true of other countries, such as Afghanistan and Colombia.
He does not give any reason, he just states this ‘an obstacle’ without any rationale as though it were self-evident. Existence of non-state armed groups is not an impediment to a state joining the convention.
The Deputy Defence Minister is further quoted as stating, “The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement have been conducting workshops and training programmes in relation to the banning of mines in partnership with international organisations.”
This is inaccurate. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MSWRR) has never conducted any workshop or other programme on banning landmines. The MSWRR does allow other organizations to conduct Mine Risk Education in a limited number of areas of the country to attempt to reduce the number of landmine casualties. Mine Risk Education programmes do not challenge armed actors to halt or ban mine use. It would be good if they did.
He is quoted as finishing by “stressing that mine clearance is under way in some parts of Kayin State.”
That would be news to the citizens of Kayin State. Maybe the Army believes picking up a few mines they scattered around an outpost is ‘clearance’?
This response by the Deputy Defence Minister to a Member of Parliament elected by the people is inadequate. Some parts of it are simply not true.
No genuine rationale for remaining outside the Mine Ban Treaty has been provided. Since the government launched discussions on peace with armed groups atleast 600 people have been killed or injured by antipersonnel landmines according to the Landmine Monitor.