Lawmakers Push Myanmar Military to Clear Landmines for Rakhine IDP Safe Return

By Min Aung Khine 14 January 2021

Sittwe, Rakhine State — A proposal was submitted to the Rakhine State parliament on Tuesday, urging the state government to provide more effective assistance for the safe return and rehabilitation of internally displaced people (IDPs) in northern Rakhine State.

“I put forward the proposal because I think the government should start by now clearing landmines and other explosives and reconstruct homes. And arrangements should be made for them to grow paddy and crops ahead of the rainy season. Otherwise, it will impose a burden on the government,” Rathedaung Township lawmaker U Oo Than Naing, who submitted the proposal, told The Irrawaddy.

U Kyaw Sein from Mont Than Pyin village, who is at a camp in Kyauktaw, said he would not return to his village because of landmine risks and government deployments near his village.

“It is not that I don’t want to go back. I dare not go back. Government troops are still deployed near the village. And we lost our houses in the fighting and we are afraid of mines,” he said.

Over 20 villages, including Mont Than Pyin by the Kaladan River, were flattened in fierce fighting between Myanmar’s military and Arakan Army (AA) over a hill overlooking the river.  The fighting lasted more than 40 days.

Ko Ann Thar Gyi, a Minbya resident who is helping IDPs, said: “If IDPs are to return to their homes, the government must remove landmines and troops stationed near villages must withdraw.”

Unexploded landmines in farmland pose dangers to villagers, said the lawmaker.

“The government must clear landmines near the villages. Clashes ceased over two months now so military engineers need to remove unexploded mines as they did in Kachin State. People die or are injured by explosives. I want the government to remove landmines as soon as possible,” U Oo Than Naing told The Irrawaddy.

According to Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC), 33 civilians died and 67 were injured by explosives during the conflict with the AA.

On Sunday, a woman died and nine villagers were injured from Minbya Township by explosives.

U Hla Aung Nyunt, a Minbya Township parliamentarian, seconded the proposal and no one objected to the discussion.

The Irrawaddy was unable to obtain a comment from the Rakhine State government or the military-appointed security and border affairs minister, Colonel Min Than.

With the Tatmadaw (military) and AA observing an unofficial ceasefire since the November general election, over 80,000 IDPs have returned to their homes and over 180,000 IDPs remain in camps, according to the REC.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko