21 May 2013

Read the new FAQ on landmines in Myanmar/BurmaFrequently Asked Questions, May 2013

Read the new FAQ on landmines in Myanmar/Burma

Frequently Asked Questions, May 2013T he International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) urges all parties to the conflict in Myanmar/Burma to cease any further use of antipersonnel landmines. Myanmar should join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty without delay and take rapid steps to clear all contaminated land and assist landmine victims.

Why is there a mine problem in Myanmar?

Mine warfare has taken place in Myanmar, or Burma, for almost half a century. Antipersonnel mines were used to a limited extent during WWII, and subsequent to independence in 1947 in armed conflict between the Communist Party of Burma and the Burmese Army. Many ethnic groups within the country raised their own militias during the following decades, who have engaged in armed conflict against the central authorities, including mine warfare, until today. Since the publication of its first report in 1999, Landmine Monitor has consistently documented the extensive use of antipersonnel mines by government forces and by non-state armed groups (NSAG) in many areas of Myanmar/Burma—the only country with that regrettable distinction. During that period, at least 17 non-state armed groups have used mines.

How extensive is the mine problem in Myanmar?

No estimate exists of the extent of mine contamination in the country. According to information gathered by Landmine Monitor, there is some level of antipersonnel landmine pollution in 10 of Myanmar’s 14 internal divisions. Some 47 townships in Kachin, Kayin(Karen), Kayah(Karenni), Mon, Rakhine, and Shan states, as well as in Bago(Pegu) and Tanintharyi(Tenasserim) regions suffer from some degree of mine contamination, primarily from antipersonnel mines. These include: all seven townships in Kayin state; all seven townships in Kayah state; Mansi, Mogaung, Momauk, Myitkyina, and Waingmaw in Kachin state; Bilin, Kyaikto, Mawlamyine, Thanbyuzayat, Thaton, and Ye in Mon state; Kyaukkyi, Shwekyin, Tantabin and Taungoo in Bago region; Maungdaw in Rakhine state; Hopong, Hsihseng, Langkho, Mawkmai, Mongpan, Mongton, Monghpyak, Namhsan Tachileik, Nanhkan, Yaksawk, and Ywangan in Shan state; Bokpyin, Dawei, Tanintharyi, Thayetchaung and Yebyu in Tanintharyi region. There are also believed to be suspected hazardous areas in townships on the Indian border of Chin and Sagaing states. Kayin state and Bago region are suspected to contain the heaviest mine contamination and have the highest number of recorded victims.

Is there ongoing use of landmines in Myanmar?

As of May 2013, mine warfare continues to take place within the country by both government forces and some non-state armed groups, but on a more limited scale than previous years. In late 2011, after the authorities announced their intention to launch peace talks with all armed groups within the country, there has been a reduction in armed conflict and in reports of mine use.

Does Myanmar produce and stockpile landmines?

Yes. Myanmar Defense Products Industries (Ka Pa Sa), a state enterprise at Ngyaung Chay Dauk in western Pegu (Bago) division, has produced fragmentation and blast antipersonnel mines, including a plastic mine which does not contain much detectable metal. The size and composition of the army’s stockpile is not known.

What is being done to remove and destroy landmines?

An official program to remove and destroy mines is not yet operating. In 2012, the Myanmar government set up a Myanmar Mine Action Centre within the government’s Myanmar Peace Centre. However, as of May 2013, the Myanmar Mine Action Centre did not have staff or a budget. A joint technical working group of NGO and government representatives had finished drafting national mine action standards which were awaiting approval by the Office of the President. Several international humanitarian mine action organizations have established offices within the country and some substantial funding from foreign governments for clearance has been pledged. However, the parties to the peace talks have yet to sanction clearance of mines. As of May 2013, no humanitarian mine clearance was taking place.

How many people have been killed and maimed by landmines in Myanmar?

There are no official sources of information on the number of people killed or injured by antipersonnel mines within the country. As of the end of 2011, Landmine Monitor had documented at least 3,200 casualties (killed and injured) within the country. However the actual number is certainly far higher.

What is being done to assist landmine victims in Myanmar?

Limited medical assistance is available to mine victims through the governmental health system. Most medical assistance requires payment which further impoverishes the victim’s family. Very limited access to prosthetics is available, through programs run by the government and supported by the ICRC and also through international and local NGOs. Few programs of vocational rehabilitation are available. Since January 2012, Myanmar is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which will require the government to invest more in services for all people with disabilities, including landmine survivors.

What is being done to raise awareness of the landmine risk?

A framework for mobilizing mine risk education in affected communities will be conducted under the Department of Social Welfare. A series of workshops to inform government officials about risk education have been conducted. Some mine risk education programs by ethnic based social service agencies exist, however their reach is limited.

What is the Mine Ban Treaty?

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty is the international agreement that bans antipersonnel landmines. Sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention, it is officially titled: the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The treaty is the most comprehensive international instrument for ridding the world of the scourge of mines. When joining the Treaty, states commit to: never use, produce, transfer or stockpile antipersonnel mines; destroy mines in their stockpiles; clear mined areas in their territory; conduct mine risk education; and ensure assistance to landmine victims. A total of 161of the world’s states (or 82%) have joined this convention.

What is Myanmar’s position on the Mine Ban Treaty?

Myanmar has not joined the Treaty. It has abstained from supporting the annual United Nations General Assembly resolution calling on all countries to join the Mine Ban Treaty. In the past year, representatives of the government have not provided consistent messages about the attitude of the authorities toward the Treaty. In July 2012, Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin told the President of the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty that Myanmar was considering accession to the Mine Ban Treaty, along with other conventions, as part of its state reforms. However, in November 2012, President U Thein Sein stated at the ASEAN Summit that Myanmar needs “to use land mines in order to safeguard the life and property of people and self-defence.” In December 2012, at the Treaty’s Twelfth Meeting of States Parties, Myanmar said it was “reviewing its domestic laws that are not in line with international norms and practices … and … our current status in connection with Convention [Mine Ban Treaty].’’

What does Myanmar need to do to solve its mine problem?

Both the Army and ethnic-based armed groups within the country must halt use of the weapon. Clearance of existing mines cannot take place in those areas where the threat of new use remains. As a confidence building measure and important step toward a peace accord, ethnic armed groups and government forces should make public pledges to cease further use of mines. They should also clearly mark and fence known mined areas.The government of Myanmar should join the Mine Ban Treaty at the soonest possible moment. A full ban on any future antipersonnel mine use by the authorities would be a confidence building measure, and a positive action in encouraging peace within the country.

Additional information

  • Visit Halt Mine Use in Myanmar/Burma Campaign website: www.burma.icbl.org
  • Read recent news on Myanmar/Burma issued by the ICBL:
  • Last major state user of landmines to join landmine ban treaty?, July 2012, (http://www.icbl.org/index.php/icbl/Library/News-Articles/Myanmar-pledge-to-join-ban)
  • Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi calls for a ban on mine use in Myanmar/Burma, June 2011, (http://www.icbl.org/index.php/icbl/Library/News-Articles/Universal/assk)
  • Myanmar/Burma: Former Commander in Chief of the Burmese Army Condemns Mine Use, May 2011,(http://www.icbl.org/index.php/icbl/Library/News-Articles/HaltMineUse_Burma)
  • Find background information on landmines and explosive remnants of war inMyanmar’s country profile in the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor at www.the-monitor.org/

A Burmese language copy of this FAQ is available here.