Myanmar Junta Lays Landmines Around Chinese-Backed Pipelines

By The Irrawaddy 21 January 2022

Residents in Hsipaw Township in northern Shan State have been concerned for their safety since the military regime planted landmines near a control center for the China-backed oil and gas pipeline.

Around 20 junta soldiers were deployed at the control center near a village in the west of the township about two months ago and they planted mines around the center.

They are planted in woods to the west and south of the control center and soldiers warned villagers not to approach those areas.

A villager said they can no longer use the woods to collect resources and they worry about farming the adjacent land.

The oil and gas pipelines under construction. / Shwe Gas

“We grow paddy and corn in fields adjacent to the woods. Our buffalo used to graze in those woods. It affects our livelihoods. Junta soldiers said they laid mines to prevent possible attacks by the people’s defense forces. They said they would remove them after their duty is finished. They ignored our requests to not plant mines near the village,” said a resident.

“We worry when we see the soldiers. If they forget to remove the mines, we will never be safe,” he added.

A spokesman for the Shan Human Rights Foundation said: “Villagers want neither mines nor junta deployments. They want them to leave.”

It is unclear if mines have been laid around another control center in northern Hsipaw near No. 23 Light Infantry Battalion’s headquarters.

The oil and gas pipelines from the Rakhine coast to China were constructed in 2011 and began operating in July 2013. One-third of the 793km pipeline is in northern Shan State.

A map of oil and gas pipelines. / Shwe Gas

Anti-Chinese sentiments swelled in Myanmar following the military coup last February with many believing Beijing had a hand in the takeover. Along with calls for a boycott of Chinese products, there were calls to blow up the pipelines if China refused to condemn the regime.

China then urged the regime to increase pipeline security, according to documents leaked on social media in March last year. It also reportedly urged the regime to stop negative stories about China appearing in Myanmar’s independent media.

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