RANGOON — The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has revealed that over 400 civilians had been killed and another 3,300 injured by landmines over the past 17 years, adding that these figures likely underestimate the true extent of damage and lives lost.
Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwa, a research coordinator and editor at the monitor, said that most of the victims were uncompensated ordinary citizens, injured or killed by anti-personnel landmines produced by the government and rebel groups. He said that soldiers had not been accounted for in the death toll.
“We estimate that since 1997, most of the people included in the figures are civilians. But we don’t have any idea as to the exact number of dead or a potential maximum estimate,” Moser-Puangsuwa said.
The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor claims that a lack of collaboration and information sharing has prevented monitoring groups from compiling and providing a more up-to-date estimate of the number of landmine victims.
Moser-Puangsuwa alleged that the Burma Army is still producing landmines at old “Ka Pa Sa” factories—referring to the Burmese acronym for the military’s Directorate of Defense Industries—near the Pegu Division town of Okshitpin in Padaung Township, and that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) also continued to manufacture landmines.
An analysis by the monitor found that Afghanistan and Colombia suffered the highest number of landmine victims in the world, with Burma a close third. Although several neighboring countries have joined together to call for an end to anti-personnel landmine use, Burma has yet to sign a landmine clearance treaty.
Eight of Burma’s more than 20 ethnic armed groups signed what the government referred to as a “nationwide” ceasefire agreement in Naypyidaw last month, but the issue of landmine clearance did not figure prominently in discussions.
However, the monitor suggested that with the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) pledging to end landmine use, a commitment to landmine clearance was more likely when the next government takes office in March, following that party’s landslide election victory on Nov. 8.