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Land mine group says Burma, ethnic groups using mines

The Landmine Monitor, a research group dedicated to monitoring land mine and cluster bomb use, has issued a statement saying it believes that the Burmese Army and ethnic groups are using antipersonnel mines in armed conflicts with ethnic groups within the country.

A landmine victim, Than Lwin, sits in his hospital bed in Mone village, some 160 kilometers north of Rangoon, in a file photo dated 2006. Photo: AFP Burma’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wunna Maung Lwin said during an Asean foreign minisers meeting in Phnom Penh last week that Burma is seriously considering joining the Mine Ban Treaty, along with other disarmament conventions, as part of its state reforms.

The foreign minister was attending a meeting of Asean foreign ministers when he made the remark to Prak Sokhonn, a minister attached to the prime minister of Cambodia, who is this year’s president of the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Since late 2011 to early 2012, Burmese army units have been accused of laying mines in their armed conflict with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Landmine Monitor statement said.

In a press release Wunna Maung Lwin  was quoted as saying that his government is no longer using landmines, and is seeking a peace pact with ethnic armed groups, which would include a ban on mine use.

Human Rights Watch reported that the KIA encountered Burmese army mines in Momauk Township in October 2011 and that mines had been widely laid by both the KIA and Burmese Army.

In July 2011, the KIA claimed to have seized landmines from captured soldiers, and Burma’s National Human Rights Commission has requested groups in the area to avoid mine use, the statement said.

In March 2012, UNOCHA called for Mine Risk Education for people in refugee camps due to reports of landmines laid in their villages in Kachin State.

Also insurgents brought into the Burmese Army’s Border Guard Forces (BGF) have been accused of mine use. In Oct 2011, the BGF laid mines near fields in Myawaddy Township, said reports, in order to interdict armed groups of the Karen National Union, and the BGF stated they were under orders to lay 500 mines in the area.

In January 2012, the Free Burma Rangers reported that BGF forces had told villagers of Pra Day Mu Village in Hpapun Township not to return to their village because of landmines they had laid in the village

Myanmar Defense Products Industries, a state enterprise at Ngyaung Chay Dauk in western Pegu (Bago) Division, reportedly produces fragmentation and blast antipersonnel mines, including a non-detectable variety, said the statement.

The monitor group has previously reported that, in addition to domestic production, Burma has obtained and used antipersonnel mines of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Soviet, and American manufacture.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is currently requesting a halt in new mine use to be included in any cease-fire negotiations between the government and ethnic armed groups.

Over the past decade, Landmine Monitor said it has documented nearly 3,000 casualties due to antipersonnel mine use in Burma, but official statistics of casualties do not exist and the real number is believed to be far higher.