Tatmadaw insists landmine use kept within reasonable minimum
THE Tatmadaw continues to produce and use landmines, deputy defence minister Major General Myint Nwe told parliament yesterday, emphasising that this activity was kept to a minimum.
“The Tatmadaw limits its landmine production and usage in its operations. On the front lines, for security reasons, it lays landmines systematically: registering them and clearing them systematically when soldiers leave a place,” he said.
“In armed conflict areas, [the Tatmadaw] lays landmines in regions where soldiers can’t be positioned, for the security of the area, with the aim to prevent destroying factories, bridges and power lines or towers,” he said. “But the [mined areas] are fenced and landmine warning signs are posted there.”
Daw Nan Khan Aye, a Shan Nationalities League for Democracy MP from Shan State’s Namtu township, said it can’t be denied that non-state armed groups are also using landmines and strong explosive weapons – particularly since 2012.
She did not specify the name of any particular armed group.
“Those who are working for the defence and security of the country without taking responsibility could cause damage to the country,” she said, adding that she wants the Tatmadaw to clear landmines and deliver minerelated public education.
Maj Gen Myint Nwe said the Tatmadaw has been helping clear landmines when locals inform them of suspected explosive devices. He said the army has also been delivering public awareness addresses about landmines in a bid to reduce risk.
With armed groups laying landmines at the entrance to villages and alongside roads, he said, locals in some conflict-wracked areas are hesitant to travel to their workplace.
“Children tending their buffalos are playing with the landmines, because of the lack of mine explosion prevention measures and delivering public education,” Daw Nan Khan Aye said.
She added that no one ever offers a condolence over deaths or injuries resulting from landmines.
According to Landmine Monitor, Myanmar is the third-worst country in the world for annual landmine casualties. There were at least 3745 reported casualties reported between 1999 and the end of 2014, though it is thought the real figure could be much higher.
Myanmar has not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and is the only state to have laid mines each year since then. According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, stateowned Myanmar Defence Products Industries still produces mines in Nyaung Chay Dauk, Bago Region. Ethnic groups are also said to be still producing landmines.
As The Myanmar Times reported last year, despite the presence of several international de-mining organisations in the country, zero mines have been cleared due to a lack of trust.
Maj Gen Myint Nwe said the Tatmadaw is participating in ceasefire and peacemaking processes, as well as working to educate people about the danger of landmines, and inform them of clearance activities of the Myanmar Mine Action Center.
“At the moment, the Tatmadaw is working together with local people to conduct humanitarian landmine clearance activities in the confluence of Thumwehta, Hpapun, Khaw Pote, Nat Taung and Dar Gwin in Kayin State,” he said.
– Translation by Thiri Min Htun