Farmer Wounded by Landmine Blast in Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 11 July 2019

A farmer was wounded by a landmine blast Wednesday in Kutkai Township, in northern Shan State, local sources have told The Irrawaddy.

Lom Zel was working on his paddy farm when the blast went off. Zahkung Ja Naw of the Kachin Youth Organization in Kutkai Township, who helped the victim, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the landmine blast occurred when Lom Zel went to retrieve cattle from his farm.

“He was wounded on his stomach and on his left foot and hand. He had to call his brother-in-law to come and pick him up after the blast,” Zahkung Ja Naw said.

Lom Zel was first sent to the hospital in Kutkai Township on Wednesday evening but, because the injuries were serious, the hospital transferred him to one in Lashio.

“We arrived at the hospital in Lashio last night (Wednesday) at 11: 30 p.m. and he is in the operating room now. A medic tried to take out some sharper pieces from the explosive that could have threatened his life,” said Zahkung Ja Naw.

Lom Zel, 39, is a family man with three children.

Fighting had broken out at the scene of the blast between the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in previous months, according to locals. Some animals, including a pig and multiple cows, have suffered wounds from landmines there as well.

It is currently the rice growing season and famers are continuing to attempt to grow food on the land, despite widespread fears of landmines.

Northern Shan State is home to several ethnic armed groups that frequently clash with the Tatmadaw. Recently, however, rival ethnic armed groups have been fighting each other—in particular the Shan groups the Restoration Council of Shan State and the Shan State Progress Party. The latter group has received assistance from the TNLA.

Northern Shan is a high-risk area for landmines, according to the Halo Trust, a U.K.-based non-governmental organization that helps landmine victims in Kachin, Shan and Karen states.

In 2018, of the 276 victims of landmine blasts nationwide, 123 were involved in incidents in Shan State. Of these, 25 were killed.

So far this year 56 people in Shan State have been involved in landmine blasts. Of these, 17 were killed.

Halo Trust reported to The Irrawaddy on May that this year, 95 percent [of landmine] victims have been from northern Shan State.

Most of the landmine explosions in the area are reported in Namtu, Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Lashio and Namsan townships.

Both the Myanmar Army and the ethnic armed groups are known to plant landmines, though they all routinely deny responsibility when civilians are killed or wounded.

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