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Myanmar children bear the brunt of landmines

Landlines and explosive ordnances killed 1,052 people in 2023, says the latest report by UNICEF
Landmines planted by the Myanmar military and removed during de-mining operations

Landmines planted by the Myanmar military and removed during de-mining operations (File: AFP)

Published: April 04, 2024 11:49 AM GMT
Updated: April 04, 2024 11:59 AM GMT

At least 210 children were killed or maimed because of the use of landmines and explosives in conflict-torn Myanmar last year, the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) said in a new report.

Children formed more than 20 percent of 1,052 civilian casualties, it said.

The number of people injured in landmines and explosive ordnances tripled in 2023 compared to 390 in the previous year, said the report released on April 3.

In 599 explosions last year, 188 people were killed and 864 were maimed, the report said.

The report was released on the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance.

UNICEF said children are particularly vulnerable to landmines as they are less likely to recognize them and may be unaware of their dangers.

The widespread deployment of weapons throughout the country means that children can encounter landmines practically anywhere, including near their homes, schools, playgrounds, and farming areas, the agency said.

“The use of landmines is not only reprehensible but can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,” said Debora Comini, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific.

“It is imperative that all parties to the conflict prioritize the safety and well-being of civilians, particularly children, and take immediate steps to halt the use of these indiscriminate weapons,” she said.

Nearly all states and regions of the country apart from the remote capital Naypyitaw, are reported to have been contaminated by landmines as the conflict has expanded in recent months, UNICEF report said.

Myanmar is one of some 32 countries that have not signed the UN convention banning anti-personnel mines, which came into force in 1999.

The Southeast Asian nation plunged into a civil war between the military and ethnic armed groups and newly emerged people’s defense forces (PDFs). The conflict was triggered by the February 2021 military coup and the toppling of the elected civilian government.

Fierce fighting continues in various ethnic regions including in Kachin, Rakhine, Kayah, Karen and Shan states.

Catholic Church has been supporting victims of landlines in Shan state, said Edward, a Catholic social worker who identified himself with only one name.

“We have a program on cash support to the victims of landmines when cases are referred to us by the NGOs and civil society groups.”

“The cases we received last year were adults and children, especially from the areas of Lashio and Kutkai townships in northern Shan state,” Edward told UCA News on April 4.

In July 2022, Amnesty International accused the Myanmar military of committing war crimes by laying landmines on a massive scale in and around villages and near churches in Kayah state.

The military laid several types of deadly landmines that it manufactures itself, including the M-14, which typically blows off the victim's foot at the ankle, and the more powerful MM-2, which often blows off the victim’s leg at the knee and causes injuries to other parts of the body, with severe risk of death due to blood loss, Amnesty said.

“I heard the explosion, then I looked and saw a lot of smoke. I heard my daughter yelling, ‘Mama, Mama,’ and I went to look and saw her lying on the ground. I noticed that my daughter had a leg missing,” Rosie from Loikaw township, Kayah state was quoted as saying in the Amnesty report.

“I went searching for it, but a man who stopped to help us said, ‘Stop! There will be another landmine.' The most important thing is to stop the bleeding,” she said.

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