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HomeFeatureIt is time to find a solution to the use of landmines

It is time to find a solution to the use of landmines

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Villagers living in the border area between Mon State and Tanintharyi Region, work on orchids as well as on rubber, betel nut plantations.  

The majority are Mon nationals, and since early 2018, they have faced more than 15 landmine explosions.   

Armed troops from the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Karen National Union (KNU) are active in this area.  They are also signatories to the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which explicitly bans the laying of landmines. Despite the parties signing this accord, villagers continue to suffer the consequences of numerous landmine explosions. 

Villagers have accused the KNU of planting the landmines. However, the KNU has denied the accusation. 

“In those areas, [it is only] Mon villagers [who] grow the plants and own the plantations. So, the NMSP troops have been providing protection for the Mon villagers. But if we accuse the KNU troops of planting landmines, what evidence can we provide? The KNU has denied that they plant the landmines,”

– said Nai Tin San, the Administrator of AhLae Sakhan Village.

Determining who is responsible for laying the landmines remains a critical challenge.

Map shows the area of KyaungSharKwin, where recent landmine explosions have occurred(Photo: Google Map)
Map shows the area of KyaungSharKwin, where recent landmine explosions have occurred(Photo: Google Map)

After  the NCA was signed, the NMSP arrested a Karen armed gang who had been cutting down trees and stealing logs, within the NMSP’s controlled area. The NMSP handed the gang over to the KNU. Following that incident, landmine explosions began. 

Nai Tin San explained that although locals have reported incidents of landmine explosions and urged the authorities to take action; to date the villagers have seen no response. 

Landmine explosions have been reported to the Government of Tanintharyi Region, local Tatmadaw [army] authorities, the Joint Monitoring Council –State level (JMC-S), and to local Hluttaw representatives. 

Despite these efforts, Mon ethnic people continue to endure landmine explosions. Within the last 12 months, 9 villagers have suffered serious injuries including lost limbs, according to the statement released by Mon Civil Society Organization Network on May, 8. 

Last March, a local from Yechaung Payar was killed from a landmine explosion, while enroute for a fishing outing. 

Mi Kon Chan Non, spokesperson with the Mon Civil Society Network, said

“In the areas where landmine blasts happen, there are two ethnic armed groups [both have signed onto the NCA] active and [conducting] patrols. [The] JMC should meditate and find who [is responsible for laying these landmines]. This matter appears to be targeting civilians.”

The Mon CSO Network has sent letters of protest and concern to the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), the KNU, the NMSP, and the JMCs of Mon State and Tanintharyi Region.  They have also called the laying of landmines with the intent to target civilians, a cowardly act. 

Mi Kon Chan Non continued,

“This landmine issue is not [taking place on] battle ground or [where armed] fighting takes place. …this happens to the local farmers who are working peacefully. And now [injured] villagers face disability hardships. So, we urge [with our]  statement that the laying of landmines must be stopped. NCA-signatory groups must investigate the matter.”

Economics of laying landmines

The Mon villagers living in the Kyaungsharkwin area work on 400 of plantations that grow betel nuts, durians, mangosteen and rubber. That area has the map reference  J-180545 which is located in Kimchaungpyar area, Yebyu Township.  This is where the NMSP’s Dawei District Headquarter is based, in accordance with the agreement between the 1995 former government, and the NMSP.

Today, individual plantations grow several crops including seasonal fruits and betel nuts. Each plantation can generate up to 400 Lakh Kyat (40 million) or more.

However, due to frequent landmine explosions, locals are fearful to work at  the plantations. 

Colonel Nay Htut Oo, Minister of Mon State’s Security and Border Affairs stated that it is necessary for the NMSP and the KNU to find a solution for peace, including resolving the issue of the landmines, which is increasingly affecting villagers’ livelihoods.  The Colonel has called for greater understanding between the two groups, and suggested they  should hold a meeting and find solutions that will result in stopping the laying of landmines. 

“There is no reason why they cannot find the solution … They should be ashamed. It is necessary to have meetings and discuss [these issues] at the table. After the meeting, the ground soldiers should [be informed]. It’s not effective if only the high rank officers have the meeting but leave the ground soldiers unaware of [the discussions]. So, they need to keep their groups well-controlled and let their soldiers know the details,”

– said Col. Nay Htut Oo. 

Civil society and villagers are urging the respective organizations and officers to conduct a field study, hold meetings and find solutions without any delay. Resolution must also include holding the persons accountable for laying landmines that have caused hardship for so many.  

Partial list of recent landmine explosions by date and injury ;

  • Nai Htun (May, 4, 2020), lost a leg
  • Nai Law (March 18, 2020) lost his life
  • Nai Paing (March, 11, 2020) lost a leg
  • Nai Win Hlaing (March, 11, 2020) lost a leg
  • One unidentified villager (February, 29, 2020) suffered serious injuries
  • Nai Mon Chan (October, 8, 2019) broken leg
  • Daw Hnin Si (April, 23, 2019) broken leg
  • Nai Kon Baline (November, 29, 2018) broken leg
  • Min Mon Chan (November, 10, 2018) lost a leg
  • Min Ah Htit (October, 18, 2018) motorbike damaged from landmine blast
  • One NMSP soldier (October, 15, 2018), lost a leg
Villagers seriously injured from landmine explosions (Photo: MNA)

Reference:
– Mon News Agency’s news and interview articles 

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