Burma urged to stop landmine use

Apr 3, 2009 (DVB), International organisations have called for a ban on the use of landmines in Burma, which is one of only 16 states never to have ratified an international treaty on landmine use.

A member of Nonviolence International Southeast Asia organisation, Fred Lubang, urged the international community to pressure the Burmese government and ethnic rebel groups to stop the use of landmines.

"We call on all parties to the conflict in Burma to cease mine-laying and undertake urgent measures to clean up the weapon and assist victims," he said.

The comment was made at the Achieving a Mine-Free Southeast Asia Workshop, held in Bangkok this week, attended by representatives from over 17 countries that comprise the International Campaign to Band Landmines.

A total of 16 governments from the Asia-Pacific region remain outside the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Worldwide, 156 governments have joined the agreement, which celebrated ten years in existence on 1 March 2009.

"We are alarmed that civilians in Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam continue to be maimed and killed by antipersonnel mines, some laid decades ago and some more recently," said Cambodian mine survivor Tun Channereth, ICBL Ambassador at the Workshop.

In recent years only Burma and a few rebel groups have laid significant numbers of antipersonnel mines, said a statement released by ICBL.

In 2007, at least 438 new casualties caused by mines or explosive remnants of war were recorded in Burma but, says the ICBL, the number of casualties is greatly underreported.

"The ongoing mine use in Burma stands in stark contrast to the complete rejection of mine use that we see elsewhere in the world," said Fred Lubang.

Both the Burmese government and opposition ethnic groups have been responsible for civilian deaths from landmines.

Cases have been reported of the Burmese military forcing locals in areas with a high concentration of landmines to act as human minesweepers.

The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans all antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years, requires destruction of mines already in the ground within 10 years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

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