A seven-year-old girl is in hospital in Thailand after sustaining multiple injuries to her legs from a landmine blast in Karen state, close to the Thai border.
Naw S had been forced to flee with her family to Thailand after fighting broke out close to her home in Shweayemyaing village, near to Karen state’s Wawlay district. Effectively made homeless, they had spent weeks sleeping on the banks of the Moei River, which separates Thailand and Burma.
Their place of refuge had been chosen for its ease of access back to their village. It was on one trip there on 12 February when the bicycle that she and her father were riding on hit a landmine.
According to the Thailand-based Back Pack Health Workers Team (BPHWT), which provides medical treatment to victims inside the conflict-torn border region, the father had taken Naw S on the trip so that Burmese troops wouldn’t think him an insurgent.
“He took eldest daughter with him, thinking that if he went alone, the Burma Army soldiers near his village might think that he is part of an ‘insurgent’ group and arrest him or worse,” said a report released by the group.
“They went by bicycle, with Naw S sitting behind her father as he rode to the village and back. On their way back to the river, the back wheel of the bicycle set off a landmine.”
The seven-year-old sustained injuries to the calf and thigh of her left leg and the sole of her right foot and remains in hospital in Phop Phra.
She becomes one of hundreds of Karen to have fallen victim to ongoing fighting in eastern Burma, as Burmese troop battle a coalition of Karen groups led by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
On the same day that Naw S was hospitalised, a resident from Eukayhta village in Kawkereit township was arrested after running into Burmese troops. BPHWT say he was beaten all night under suspicion that he was an insurgent.
The latest spell of conflict in the border region began in November last year and has pushed thousands of refugees back and forth across the border with Thailand, which is littered with landmines.
BPHWT says that the area around Shweayemyaing village is heavily mined, making it too dangerous for residents to return.
Burma last year earned the distinction of being the world’s only country still laying landmines and remained one of three, including India and Pakistan, that continued to produce the derided weapon.