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December 13, 2019

Speed up efforts to protect civilians from landmines

  • A landmine explosion yesterday in Hsipaw, Shan State, which left one tourist dead and one injured has put into focus the grave risks posed by landmines in Myanmar.
    Landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) can be found in nine out of 15 regions and states in the country, and are a part of the deplorable cycle of armed conflicts that has besieged Myanmar for over 70 years.
    Protecting civilians from landmines and other explosive ordnance and rehabilitation of victims forms an important part of efforts towards sustainable development. This task goes hand-in-hand with the peace process of the government.
    In 2019, more than 280,000 people received Mine Risks Education (MRE) in ethnic languages, bringing the total number of people who have received MRE since 2016 to about one million.
    However, there is an urgent need to accelerate emergency MRE activities in all affected areas to ensure the safety of internally displaced persons (IDPs) once they return home.
    We welcome the government’s commitment to mine clearance and rehabilitation of victims. Hence, current efforts in cooperation with the ASEAN Mine Centre for establishing a Mine Action Authority in Myanmar need to be speeded up.
    In Myanmar, nine states and regions are contaminated with landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), and other improvised explosive devices. Although many incidents still go unreported, reports of casualties due to landmines and other explosives increased from 176 in 2017 to 276 in 2018. Fifty-six children (16 dead and 40 injured) were included in the list of casualties in 2018. Kachin and Shan states were the most affected between 2015 and 2018.
    Landmines are threatening IDPs and host communities in conflict-affected areas. Landmines have had a negative impact on their livelihood and hampered opportunities for their return to villages of origin.
    Civilians, including children and women, must never be victims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. We must all continue to work together to protect all communities from landmines and other explosive ordnance.
    To clear landmines in conflict-ridden areas and assist in the rehabilitation of landmine victims, the first priority is the prevalence of peace and the second is the rule of law.
    That task cannot be accomplished if there is no rule of law and no peace.
    Villagers in risk areas will not be interested in who laid the landmines, but in methods to protect themselves from them. Hence, we must speed up efforts to save them from further harm.

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