Burma was singled out this week as one of four countries that may still be manufacturing landmines.
According to the 2014 Landmine Monitor report released this week by Washington-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL): “Active production [of antipersonnel mines] may be ongoing in as few as four countries: India, Myanmar [Burma], Pakistan and South Korea.”Landmine Ban
The United States was removed from the list of potential landmine producers following its June 2014 policy announcement foreswearing any future production or acquisition of antipersonnel mines.
Burma was also among the countries listed as places where landmine use was ongoing among non-state armed groups though at a reduced rate.
ICBL reported “a few credible allegations” of mine use by Burmese government forces in Kachin and Arakan states, and diminished reports of non-state groups using landmines. The only instances of new landmine use have emerged from Kachin and Karen states, the report said.
Though he was unable to speculate on the number of landmine victims in Burma, Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, the research coordinator for ICBL in Burma, said, “Clearly mine use has decreased in Burma due to the lessening of armed conflict in most parts of the country since the start of dialogue on a nationwide ceasefire.”
He pointed out that ICBL’s Landmine Monitor does not have researchers in the field where mines are being laid. “We depend on reports by humanitarian organisations, medics, interviews with refugees and combatants and other sources,” he told DVB.
David Eubank of Free Burma Rangers, an organisation that regularly sends medical teams into Burma’s conflict zones, said there is a clear reduction in landmine use and casualties in eastern Burma, but a large increase in the north of the country.
“In eastern Burma—Mon, Karen, Karenni and southern Shan states—landmine use has decreased since the beginning of ceasefire negotiations and especially from 2012 to present,” he told DVB on Friday. “However, in northern Burma there has been an increase as the Burma army has used more landmines in its offensives against the Kachin, Northern Shan and Ta’ang [Palaung].”
Despite the Burmese government not acceding to the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, the internationally recognised landmine ban agreement, in December 2013 it stated that its participation as an observer at the treaty’s Meetings of States Parties “clearly reflects our keen interest in the present and future work of the convention.”
According to ICBL’s Landmine Monitor 2014, fewer people across the world were killed and injured by landmines in 2013 than in any previous year since it began monitoring in 1999.
Releasing its 2014 report on the 17th seventeenth anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa Treaty, commonly referred to as the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL said, “In 2013, the recorded number of casualties caused by mines and other explosive remnants of war decreased to 3,308—the lowest level since the Monitor started recording casualties in 1999—and nearly one-quarter fewer than in 2012. In 2013, there was an average of nine victims per day, indicating that many lives are being saved when compared to the 25 each day reported in 1999.”
It noted that, as in previous years, the vast majority of recorded casualties were civilians – a staggering 79 percent.
One hundred and sixty-two countries are now state parties to the Ottawa Treaty; however several major munitions producers are not signatories, including the US, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan.
“While far too many people are still losing their lives and limbs to landmines, new casualties are at their lowest level ever recorded—possibly the best measure of how successful the Mine Ban Treaty has been,” said Megan Burke, casualties and victim assistance editor of Landmine Monitor. “But we can’t forget that there are hundreds of thousands of landmine survivors waiting for their needs to be met and their rights to be fulfilled.”
What was perceived as a victory for recognition of the Mine Ban Treaty came when the US announced new policies in June and September 2014 banning use of antipersonnel mines except on the Korean Peninsula, banning production of the weapon, and accelerating destruction of its stockpile.
The US said that this is “signaling our clear aspiration to eventually accede” to the Mine Ban Treaty.
ICBL was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to eradicate landmines. It is now fully known as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC).