UN alarmed over children killed in Myanmar conflict  

Agency urges all parties to stop laying explosives as each side blames the other for the deaths
UN alarmed over children killed in Myanmar conflict   

Internally displaced children play in the field of a temporary shelter in Danai, Kachin state, on May 12, 2018. Reports show that in 2019 alone, 15 children were killed and 36 injured in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar in incidents caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war. (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations is deeply concerned about continued reports of killings and injuries of children with no end in sight to the conflict between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine.

Four children were killed and five more were injured when an explosive device went off while they were collecting firewood in the forest in Buthidaung township in Rakhine on Jan.6.

The Myanmar military and the Arakan Army have blamed each other for the deaths.

UNICEF Myanmar reports that in 2019 alone, 15 children lost their lives and 36 were severely injured in conflict-affected areas of the country as a result of incidents caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERWs).

“We urge all parties to the conflict to stop laying mines and to clear existing mines and unexploded ordinance to ensure the safety of children caught up in conflict, and to uphold their right to protection,” UNICEF said in a Jan.10 statement.

It also urges the government “to facilitate access for the provision of emergency mine risk education activities so children, teachers and other community members receive psychosocial support and mine risk education in schools and communities in all conflict-affected areas.”

Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho of Pyay diocese which covers Rakhine said the ongoing fighting has largely impacted civilian lives, with no end in sight.

“The elderly, young people and children are the victims of the war,” he said.

The prelate has called for dialog among all parties as violence escalates in Rakhine State.

The Rakhine conflict has killed at least 90 civilians and displaced thousands more since it began in December 2018.

At least 44,000 people are displaced in 119 sites in Rakhine and more than 1,800 people are displaced in 12 sites in Chin State, according to the UN.

The Arakan Army is a largely Buddhist militia fighting for greater autonomy for indigenous ethnic Rakhine in the state.

Rakhine also has a separate conflict that has seen more than 700,000 Muslim Rohingya flee to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 due to military offensives.

The Landmine Monitor report said that from mid-2018 to October 2019, Myanmar was the only country where government security forces had deployed mines.

A senior official told local media that 168 people were injured in mine blasts in the first nine months of 2019, with 126 people left disabled. He added that most explosions happened in conflict areas: 46 percent in Shan State, 24 percent in Rakhine and 18 percent in Kachin State.

Myanmar is ranked third after Colombia and Afghanistan in terms of having the highest mine-related casualty in the world. Myanmar recorded 3,745 such casualties between 1999 and 2014. 

Myanmar has yet to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty adopted by more than 80 percent of nations. The Myanmar military has laid landmines every year since 1997. Reports also reveal that most of the country’s 20 or so armed ethnic groups have used mines.

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