LANDMINES: KNU says demining depends on peace building progress

The Karen Nation Union (KNU)’s general secretary, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, said that mine clearance in KNU controlled areas would be dependent on ceasefire conditions and if a level of trust with the government could be reached.

Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win said that taking into account the current status of the peace talks now, is not the time for demining.

“As the ceasefire agreement is still unstable, there is no systematic plan for demining in KNU controlled areas, but I don’t know about what the other Karen armed groups’ plan to do.”

The KNU said that landmines are still active in Hpa-an, Hlaingbwe, Kawkareik, Myawaddy, Kyain Seikgyi townships in Karen State, Than Taunggyi, Shwe Kyin and Kyauk Gyi townships in Pegu Division, Myeik Township and Dawei district in Tenasserim Division.

The KNU said it has concentrated on working on prevention – explaining the dangers of landmines and marking risk locations – rather than working on demining.

Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win explained that demining depends on the peace building progress with the government. He said that the KNU has been using the ceasefire period to start the documentation of landmines areas and giving mine risk education awareness in preparation for future demining.

Members of Karen armed groups denied media reports that all five Karen armed groups – the KNU, the Peace Council, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Payar Gone Peace group had agreed at a meeting on July 13 to start demining process in Karen State within July.

Major Tun Tun from the DKBA told Karen News that no major demining process in its control area has taken place.

“Our group doesn’t have a big plan for demining. We have only carried out landmine clearance on a small scale in places where the mines are a danger to the civilians in our controlled area.”

Major Tun Tun said that landmines used by the Karen armed groups are usually handmade and the lifespan depends on a battery and does not last for more than a few months.

Landmines in Karen State are used by the Karen armed groups and the Burma Army. In a 2011 report by the humanitarian organisation Geneva Call, it was estimated that 5.2 million people live in areas contaminated by landmines in Burma.

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