Civilian Injured by Landmine as Mon, Karen Armed Groups Trade Blame

By Lawi Weng 5 May 2020

An ethnic Mon civilian was severely injured Monday after stepping on a landmine in Han Gan Village in Mon State’s Ye Township.

Nai Tun, 37 years old, was travelling to his rubber garden when he stepped on a mine along the road. The explosion destroyed one side of his leg and he was treated at the hospital in Mawlamyine, the state capital.

The area around Han Gan has seen renewed conflict between the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Karen National Union (KNU) since 2018. Both the KNU and NMSP have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the Myanmar government.

“He stepped on the landmine in the border area, between areas controlled by our Mon and the Karen,” said Nai Htaw Rot, the NMSP chairman for Dawei District. “We do not know who planted the landmine. But for us, we do not make trouble for our people.”

Landmines have gone off often in Ye and in Tanintharyi’s Yebyu Township. Though over 10 civilians have been wounded already by landmines since 2018, the KNU and the NMSP haven’t taken steps to address the issue or find a solution.

“For us, we want to tell our people that we are trying to negotiate with [the KNU] to solve this problem. We have discussed with them and told them to let our people work in their area peacefully,” said Nai Htaw Rot.

Padoh Saw Tar Doh Moo, the general secretary of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that his organization may have to discuss this issue with the ethnic Karen only.

“This area was a conflict area already in the past. It has seen fighting in the past, and our local people ran away from their land. There would be landmines remaining from the past conflict,” he said.

He added that it is difficult to give detailed information on the issue without contacting KNU group troops in the area.

According to some Mon community leaders, the NMSP and KNU blamed each other for the landmine explosion on Monday but neither has taken responsibility to solve the problem.

“It was not enough for them to speak about it only. Both of them need to form an investigation committee. They should investigate who did it and take action against the person who did it. It could be that their former soldiers who stayed in the area planted this landmine,” said Nai Kasauh Mon, director for Human Rights Foundation of Monland.

“For us, we are worried that there will be a long-term conflict in the area,” he added.

The Mon human rights advocate also said the government should cooperate with the two ethnic armed groups to solve the issue of landmines in the area, or the Myanmar army could cooperate with the Mon and Karen armed groups to clear landmines from the area.

“The government may view this conflict as a conflict only between the NMSP and KNU and may think that they should not get involved in it. But this problem also relates to peace in the country,” said Nai Kasauh Mon.

Nai Aung Naing Oo, vice house speaker in the Mon State parliament, said that the NMSP and the KNU should not point fingers at each other anymore, as many people have already been injured, and that they should take responsibility to solve the problem.

“For the NMSP, our Mon feel that [the group’s members] are soldiers who provide security for them, so [the NMSP] has to think how they can help their people. They need to deploy more troops in the area if necessary,” he said.

He added that if they decide they need to work with the regional government, they should invite the government to cooperate.

“More and more people will continue to be hurt if no one takes responsibility,” he added.

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