Burma

Civilians Killed, Wounded by Landmines in Southern Myanmar

By Lawi Weng 19 March 2020

An ethnic Mon man was killed in a landmine blast in Bee Ree, in Mon State’s Ye Township, on Thursday in an area that has seen fighting between Mon and Karen rebels, according to local sources.

Nai Kaing Rot Mon, an official in Bee Ree and a member of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the man stepped on the landmine and died as he was being taken back home.

“He stepped on the landmine while he and his friend were going fishing,” he said.

Bee Ree had been largely free of landmine incidents after the NMSP signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar army in 1995. However, the number of blasts starting rising again after Mon and Karen rebels began fighting each other in the area early this year, leaving a number of local people injured, according to the NMSP.

The landmine was planted in a road and was likely targeted at NMSP vehicles but instead killed a local civilian, according to Nai Kaing Rot Mon.

On March 11, two local ethnic Mon each lost a leg in separate landmine explosions in Yebyu Township, Tanintharyi Region.

One man was going to fix a water pipe in an area of jungle near his village when he stepped on a mine. Another man stepped on a mine while walking towards his rubber plantation.

Landmines are becoming an increasing problem for ethnic Mon civilians, especially in the Yebyu area, which includes disputed territory claimed by both Mon and Karen rebels.

Local people have accused the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) of planting the landmines, but the claim is difficult to prove due to a lack of witnesses, Nai Kaing Rot Mon said.

Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, vice chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), told The Irrawaddy, “Our liaison office told us they do not know who did it. They were investigating whether any of our soldiers are based in the area. The area is some distance [from our area] and our troops were not engaged in movements there. We have communicated with liaison office from NMSP as part of the investigation.”

Five local people stepped on landmines last year, according to the deputy speaker of the Mon State parliament, Nai Aung Naing Oo.

“We need to find out whether the problem was the result of a personal conflict, or between the armed groups, because only local people are being hurt. We strongly condemn this action, whoever did it,” Nai Aung Naing Oo said.

“They should sit down together. If it was an armed conflict or a territorial dispute, they should sit down and talk to each other,” he said.

“It was a landmine without an owner. We have a duty to find out who did it,” said Ashin Okkansa, a senior Mon Buddhist monk.

“If no one investigates this, local people will continue to suffer from landmines,” he said.

He asked the government, the Mon and Karen ethnic armed groups, and political parties to help protect local ethnic Mon from landmines.

In response to the incidents in which two Mon men lost legs in mine blasts in Yebyu on March 11, the NMSP issued a statement on March 16 saying that both the KNU and NMSP have a duty to take care of local people and ensure they are able to travel to and from work safely, even though no one has yet been able to determine who planted the landmines.

“We have informed our people that we will try to find a solution by getting both sides to meet,” the statement said.

Both the KNU and NMSP have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the Myanmar government. Leaders of the groups met once last year to discuss ways of cooperating to end the planting of landmines in the Yebyu area. Despite agreeing to meet again, they have not done so.

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