Landmines leave Myanmar’s children biggest losers


Children are affected most when landmines and explosives are used in conflicts, UN children’s agency UNICEF says.

A new report from the agency says the landmine and explosive legacy in Myanmar (formerly Burma) killed or maimed at least 210 children last year.

Those children represent over 20 percent of last year’s 1,052 civilian casualties in the conflict-torn Southeast Asian nation.

UNICEF’s 3 April report says the number of people injured in landmines and explosive ordnances in Myanmar tripled last year, compared with the 390 people who died from their use in 2022.

The report – released on the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance – says in 599 explosions last year 188 people were killed. A further 864 were maimed.

Children most vulnerable

UNICEF says children are particularly vulnerable to landmines. That’s because they are less likely to recognise them and may be unaware of their dangers.

The use of explosive weapons is widespread in the country, which means children can encounter landmines practically anywhere. They have been placed near their homes, schools, playgrounds and farming areas UNICEF says.

“The use of landmines is not only reprehensible but can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific says.

“It is imperative that all parties to the conflict prioritise the safety and well-being of civilians, particularly children, and take immediate steps to halt the use of these indiscriminate weapons.”

Mines everywhere

UNICEFs report says apart from Myanmar’s capital city Naypyitaw, most of the country’s states and regions are ridden with landmines.

UNICEF says landmine and explosive use has increased as the conflict has expanded in recent months.

Myanmar is among 32 countries that have not signed the 1999 UN convention banning anti-personnel mines.

Civil war

The Myanmar civil war – aka the Burmese Spring Revolution, the Burmese civil war or the people’s defensive war – is fierce and ongoing.

It followed the country’s long-running insurgencies. These escalated significantly after a military coup d’état in 2021 and the military junta’s subsequent violent crackdown on anti-coup protests.

Key players in the civil war are the military and ethnic armed groups and the newly emerged People’s Defence Forces.

Catholic help

The Catholic Church has been supporting victims of landmines in Shan state, a Catholic social worker says.

“We have a programme on cash support to the victims of landmines when cases are referred to us by the NGOs and civil society groups.”

He says the people they helped support last year were both adults and children.

War crimes

In July 2022, Amnesty International accused the Myanmar military of committing war crimes.

The military has been manufacturing and laying landmines on a massive scale in and around villages and near churches.

These include the M-14, which typically blows off the victim’s foot at the ankle.

There’s also the more powerful MM-2, which often blows off the victim’s leg at the knee and causes injuries to other parts of the body.

There is a severe risk of death due to blood loss from the injuries caused by the MM-2, Amnesty says.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,