Uncertain Ground: Landmines in eastern Burma

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Uncertain Ground: Landmines in eastern Burma

Published date:
Monday, May 21, 2012

Analysis of KHRG's field information gathered between January 2011 and May 2012 in seven geographic research areas indicates that, during that period, new landmines were deployed by government and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in all seven research areas. Ongoing mine contamination in eastern Burma continues to put civilians' lives and livelihoods at risk and undermines their efforts to protect against other forms of abuse. There is an urgent need for humanitarian mine action that accords primacy to local protection priorities and builds on the strategies villagers themselves already employ in response to the threat of landmines. In the cases where civilians view landmines as a potential source of protection, there is an equally urgent need for viable alternatives that expand self-protection options beyond reliance on the use of mines. Key findings in this report were drawn based upon analysis of seven themes, including: New use of landmines; Movement restrictions resulting from landmines; Marking and removal of landmines; Forced labour entailing increased landmine risks; Human mine sweeping, forced mine clearance and human shields; Landmine-related death or injury; and Use of landmines for self-protection.

Footnotes

[1] For Kw---'s previously unpublished interview, see Section III: Source Document: 2012/May/Pa'an/4.

[2] Ma Nu--- (shown in the back cover photo, right) subsequently gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She stepped on the landmine during January 2012 and, although part of her right leg had to be amputated, she now walks using a prosthetic leg. Her previously unpublished testimony, received by KHRG in May 2012, is included below in Section III: Source Document: 2012/January/Pa'an/1.

[3] KHRG research areas include some of all or parts of government-delineated Kayin and Mon states and Bago and Tanintharyi regions. The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has noted that Kayin state and Bago region are suspected to contain the heaviest landmine contamination in Burma and have the highest number of recorded victims. The Monitor also identified suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) in every township in government-delineated Kayin state; in Thanbyuzayat, Thaton, and Ye townships in Mon state; in Kyaukkyi, Shwekyin, and Tantabin townships in Bago region; and in Bokpyin, Dawei, Tanintharyi, Thayetchaung and Yebyu townships of Tanintharyi region; see Country profile: Myanmar Burma, ICBL Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. Similarly, Dan Church Aid (DCA) which currently operates mine-risk education (MRE) programs and a prosthetic clinic in eastern Burma, has noted that, while verifiable data is difficult to gather due to infrequency of access, Burma experiences some of the highest mine accident rates in the world. DCA also notes that no de-mining programs are currently being pursued as new mines continue to be deployed by both government and NSAGs; see DCA Mine Action: Burma/Myanmar.

[4] Thaw Waw Thaw village, Noh Kay village tract, T'Nay Hsah Township, Pa'an District.

[5] An uncensored list of these Thaw Waw Thaw villagers names is provided below in Section III: Source Documents: 2012/May/Pa'an/1.

[6] Interviews with these eight villagers are provided below in Section III: Source Document: 2012/May/Pa'an/2 – 9.

[7] For three previously unpublished incident reports written by a community member working with KHRG and describing landmine casualties in Noh Kay and Htee Klay village tracts, see Section III: Source Document: 2012/April/Pa'an/1 – 3. For photos of villagers and livestock injured by landmines since the start of 2012, see photos below in Section II: B Movement restrictions resulting from landmines and Section II: F Landmine-related death and injury.

[8] Due to the volume of information received by KHRG, an additional 916 documents were received by KHRG in the reporting period but have not yet been processed and translated from the original Karen and so were not included in analysis for this report. KHRG information-processing involves the assessment of each individual piece of information prior to translation in order to determine quality and facilitate follow-up with community members where necessary.

[9] Two of these themes, namely B. Movement restrictions resulting from landmine contamination and G. Landmine use as a self-protection strategy were identified by KHRG; the other five were identified by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) which, in March 2012, requested field information received by KHRG since January 2011 relating to landmine incidents fitting within one of those categories.

[10] KHRG has received as-yet-unpublished documentation of forced labour incidents in Pa'an and Thaton districts during March and April 2012. Published reports describing forced labour in Toungoo and Dooplaya districts during 2012 can be found on the KHRG website; see "Ongoing forced labour and movement restrictions in Toungoo District," KHRG, March 2012; and "Abuses since the DKBA and KNLA ceasefires: Forced labour and arbitrary detention in Dooplaya," KHRG, May 2012.

[11] Plans for the development of a strategy to eliminate all forms of forced labour in Burma by 2015 were made explicit in the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Government of Myanmar on March 16th. Media groups subsequently reported statements by ILO officials suggesting that senior Tatmadaw commanders have indicated offending soldiers would be prosecuted under the penal code, rather than within martial law; see "Soldiers using forced labour to be prosecuted," Democratic Voice of Burma, May 9th 2012. For the full text of the MOU, see ILO Governing Body 313th Session, Geneva, 15–30 March 2012GB.313/INS/6(Add.).

[12] Due to the volume of information received by KHRG, an additional 916 documents were received by KHRG in the reporting period but have not yet been processed and translated from the original Karen and so were not included in analysis for this report. KHRG information-processing involves the assessment of each individual piece of information prior to translation in order to determine quality and facilitate follow-up with community members where necessary.

[13] Note that this transliteration system differs from the previous system used by KHRG, and as such the spelling of location names may be different. Note also that organisations developing the system agreed to continue using the spellings in common-usage for districts and townships, even where they do not match the new transliteration system.