Myanmar’s military junta is increasingly using landmines in Kayah State in addition to air raids, artillery strikes and destruction of property in the resistance stronghold.
Ko Banya, director of the Karenni Human Rights Groups (KHRG), an independent community-based organization recording junta atrocities, told The Irrawaddy that regime forces plant landmines in most villages they visit.
In early April a tractor in Hpruso Township carrying displaced civilians was destroyed by a mine, although no passengers were injured.
In September last year, a displaced civilian was killed and two villagers seriously injured by landmines in Demoso Township while returning home to fetch food.
The KHRG has recorded at least 15 civilian injuries and one death due to junta landmines in the state since the coup. The group said most of the injured civilians were now disabled.
Before the coup, Kayah State already had several heavily mined areas, especially around the Lawpita dam in Shadaw Township and in eastern Demoso Township, which are both sparsely populated areas.
Now mines are increasingly being found in more densely populated areas of Loikaw and Demoso townships.
“These townships have the most heavily populated areas of the state,” Banya added.
He said regime forces planted the landmines in villages to prevent resistance fighters from approaching, villagers from returning and to disrupt the new administration established by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force.
The armed group uploaded videos to Facebook showing how to remove landmines and resistance troops clearing junta mines.
Villagers say they fear returning to their homes.
“Two weeks ago, a member of the resistance lost both his legs clearing mines in my village,” said a western Demoso villager resident. “I am scared to go home.”
About two-thirds of the state’s 300,000 residents have been displaced by fighting amid indiscriminate junta attacks. Around 200 Kayah deaths have been reported since the coup.
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