Landmine casualties in Myanmar soar after coup
Landmines and unexploded ordnance injured or killed more than one person every day in Myanmar last year, the United Nations said, citing a 40% increase in casualties compared to 2021.
The military’s ouster of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in 2021 sparked renewed fighting with ethnic rebel groups and the formation of dozens of “People’s Defense Forces” in areas previously untouched by decades of conflict in Myanmar.
The Southeast Asian nation is not a signatory to the United Nations convention banning the use, stockpiling or development of anti-personnel mines.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on Tuesday that 390 people would be injured or killed by landmines or unexploded ordnance in 2022, an increase of almost 40% compared to the previous year.
Around two-thirds of the incidents have been reported in border areas, where ethnic rebels have fought for decades against the army and each other for autonomy and control over resources such as timber, jade and the drug trade.
And nearly a fifth of the casualties were reported in the northern Sagaing region, an area that was largely peaceful before the coup but has since become a focal point of resistance to military rule.
Aung Than Oo, a former soldier who lost his leg after stepping on a landmine while fighting ethnic armed groups, sits on his motorbike outside Yangon, Myanmar May 17, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)
In 2020, the year before the coup, there were 254 victims, according to Unicef.
Myanmar’s military has repeatedly been accused of atrocities and war crimes during decades of internal conflict.
Last year, Amnesty International said its troops laid landmines on a “massive scale” as they fought anti-coup militants, including near churches and on paths to rice paddies.
The Unicef figures do not include casualties caused by attacks by anti-junta militants on “local administrations and security forces,” the agency said.
According to the junta, more than 5,000 people were killed by anti-coup militants and allied ethnic rebels between the coup and January this year.
A local monitoring group says more than 3,000 people have been killed by junta security forces and more than 19,000 arrested in the military raid.
Demonstrators hold pictures of jailed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok February 1, 2023 to mark the second anniversary of the coup in Myanmar. (Photo: AFP)
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