Mon State — A 43-year-old woman was killed after stepping on a landmine while picking mushrooms in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township on Tuesday, setting off an explosion that also injured two others, according to a local NGO.
Lashi Kaw Nan died from her injuries as she was being carried away from the site of the blast while U La Doi, her husband, and Lahtaw Seng Mai were taken to a public hospital in Lashio Township, said Tawm Mai, who works with the NeT Organization to raise landmine awareness.
She said the three victims were in a group of five foraging for mushrooms in a part of the forest near Tarmoenye Town where there had been fighting in 2011 and that Lashi Kaw Nan was walking in the lead when she stepped on the mine, which tore through both of her legs.
Lashi Kaw Nan and U La Doi had 4 children and collected mushrooms to supplement their income, Tawm Mai added. She said she visited U La Doi in the hospital and that he was worried his eldest daughter, who is in the 10th grade, would now have to leave school.
She said U La Doi and Lahtaw Seng Mai were both injured in their legs and would have to undergo surgery to have mine fragments removed.
There were 119 landmine explosions in Myanmar last year, killing 52 people and injuring 124, according to Halo Trust, a UK-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that clears mines.
Of the 119 explosions, 45 occurred in Shan State, killing 22 people and injuring 54.
This year, from January through May, there have already been 127 landmine explosions, which have killed 23 people and injured 136. Forty-nine of the explosions were in Shan, killing nine and injuring 49.
lway Ai Aww, a Halo Trust manager based in Lashio, said most of the incidents in Shan occur in the north of the state.
Also from January through May, there were 65 landmine explosions in Kachin State, which killed eight people and injured 76.
Both states see frequent fighting between the many ethnic armed groups based in the area and the Myanmar military, and sometimes between the ethnic armed groups themselves. All sides are accused of using landmines against their adversaries, though many get planted where locals forage for food.
Local NGOs like NeT say they face many challenges raising landmine awareness in the area, from the intermittent fighting to the busy schedules of the civilians they are trying to educate. They say they are sometimes stopped and questioned by the armed groups when travelling to affected areas.