One man was killed and another wounded in separate landmine explosions in Namtu and Hsipaw townships in northern Shan State on May 20.
Phoe Htaung, the head of the Mann San village tract in Namtu Township, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that Lone San Jam, 50, a resident of Mong Mu village in the tract, was killed while farming on Monday. “He went to his field and stepped on the landmine,” he said.
Lone San Jam suffered wounds to his leg, body and hand and died on the way to a hospital in Lashio.
The deceased man’s farmland is located in a conflict zone that has seen frequent fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and an alliance of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), according to local sources.
Now is rice-growing season, but many people in Mann San no longer dare to work in their fields, fearing landmines, Phoe Htaung said.
“Animals are often wounded by landmines in the area,” he said, adding that this was first time a local resident had been killed.
Sai Ann, a resident of Tom Kyaing village in Hsipaw Township, was wounded while working on his farm on the same day.
The Lashio-based Marnagar News Journal reported that Sai Ann suffered leg wounds and was sent to a hospital in Hsipaw town for treatment on May 20.
Northern Shan State is home to several ethnic armed groups that frequently clash with the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw). Recently, however, rival ethnic armed groups have been fighting each other; in particular the two Shan groups, the RCSS and the SSPP, have clashed, the latter group being assisted by 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.
This year, “95 percent [of landmine] victims have been from northern Shan State,” Lway Ai Aww, a Halo Trust manager based in Lashio, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
Most of the landmine explosions in the area are reported in Namtu, Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Lashio and Namsan. This reporter has noted that Namtu and Hsipaw in particular have seen a spike in landmine incidents.
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.
Kachin, Shan, and Karen civilians face the highest risk from landmines in areas where ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar Army fight, and many IDPs are unable to return to their homes due the presence of minefields. In Kachin State, Army officials and religious leaders are currently negotiating so that demining activities can begin.
In Kayin State, meanwhile, more than 5,000 Karen IDPs in Myaing Gyi Ngu are still unable to go home despite the fact that their home villages, which they fled in 2016, are no longer affected by fighting.
The Karen Border Guard Force and other local authorities have in the past promised IDPs that demining would allow them to return to their homes, but the process has yet to begin.
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