Landmines placed by armed ethnic groups and Burma Army maim and kill villagers

Old and unexploded landmines remain an everyday threat to the lives of civilians and restrict their ability to travel safely.

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.

Landmines are concentrated in the country’s east – where many of Burma’s major ethnic people live – and villagers are scared to leave their homes from fear of walking on a landmine, or of being coerced into becoming human minesweepers for the Burma Army.

Between the 28th of August and the 1st of November this year, two separate incidents happened in Pa’an district, killing one 21-year-old man and maiming two others. The two injured were a 40-year-old man from Pa’an district who lost a leg and an unidentified soldier from the Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 275 who lost both of his legs.

According to the independent human rights organisation, Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), landmines are present in the area of Noh Kay village tract, T’Nay Hsah Township, Pa’an District, and in Htee Kyah Rah village tract.

Local sources said landmines planted by the Burma Army, Border Guard Force, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) are still active.

The conflict in Eastern Burma means that landmines used by the military may be in areas that have been at relative peace for months. Many villagers are unaware of landmine sites left by the military.

Burma’s military has been accused of forcing villagers to be human minesweepers in contaminated zones, which involves forcing civilians to walk in front of army units. Human rights organisations, such as the KHRG, have documented individual cases of the Burma Army employing human minesweepers as recently as February of this year.

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