Panglong fails to address need for landmine clearance agreements

Peace negotiators are anxious to see long-promised mine clearance activities get underway so that refugee resettlement and development can move forward.

The head of the Union-level Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee called on the public to urge their local officials to make good on pledges to clear the unexploded ordinance.

“In my opinion, they [the state-level Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committees] need to carry out the mine clearance if it is demanded by the public. They have responsibilities in line with the NCA [the nationwide ceasefire agreement],” U Min Zaw Oo, director of the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee – Union Level, said during the second session of the Union Peace Conference, also known as the 21st-Century Panglong Conference.

Kayin State’s Social Welfare Department announced earlier this year that it would prioritize land clearance operations in the area around Kyon Htaw Waterfall and Myaing Gyi Ngu during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

P’doh Saw Hser Bweh, joint secretary of the KNU, said, “The KNU has been clearing the landmines in the KNU areas in order to assist refugees returning to their villages after they fled from the conflicts. But we haven’t cleared landmines that were placed for security reasons. This issue is a process that needs to be considered in line with political development. We have raised public awareness on the danger of landmines.”

According to the NCA, both the Tatamdaw and the ethnic armed groups need to carry out mine clearance operations in ethnic areas. The issue has been agreed to in principle by both sides, but that hasn’t necessarily led to much traction on the ground.

Myanmar is one of the most heavily land mined countries in the world, and is one of the few remaining nations not to have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.From 1999 through 2015, a total of 3,693 people were recorded as victims of landmines, according to the Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor.

At least one ethnic armed group at the Union Peace Conference expressed scepticism that clearance operations will get started any time soon. The Palaung National Liberation Organization (PNLO)’s chair, Khun Myint Tun, said land mine clearance will be difficult to undertake until the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed organizations reach a specific agreement on the issue and how to proceed.

Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron

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