Burma Army Laying Landmines in Civilian Areas
23 June 2018
Kachin State and Northern Shan State
Since April, FBR has received six reports of civilians being killed or wounded by Burma Army landmines in northern Burma alone, leaving a total of four dead and four injured. These actions show a clear disregard for civilians in conflict areas, and are, according to the KIA, standard practice followed by the Burmese military after their offensives.
In northern Shan State on June 17, a villager stepped on a landmine while out foraging for mushrooms in the vicinity of his village. A Mr. Lashi Gam, 65, took shrapnel to his left arm and leg resulting in his death. He was from Hu Hpyet Village in Kuthkai Township.
On the same day, soldiers of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) cleared a landmine planted by the Burma Army from a field belonging to Mr. Maran Yaw in Loi Seng Jebu Pa Village, Hpakant Township in central Kachin State.
These are just two examples of what is a long-standing practice of the Burma Army of sowing mines in an indiscriminate manner in civilian areas, amidst fighting which has increased in northern Burma throughout April and May.
The KIA has provided FBR with pictures of landmines that the Burma Army planted in civilian areas in Danai Township in April and May, which the KIA asserts are intended to target villagers.
KIA troops have cleared more than 70 Burma Army landmines from the Gauri Bum-Mam Htu Bum path in Danai Township, and Kachin soldiers are still conducting search-and-clearance operations for landmines to ensure the safe return of the villagers. The KIA further state they cannot allow IDPs to return to their homes until they are certain as much of the threat is cleared as possible.
In Pung Swi Yang in Njang Yang Township, the KIA have so far unearthed more than 20 landmines left by the Burma Army, in places such as along the road and by the local civilian administrative office. The pictures show numbers of Burmese-manufactured M14 and M18/MM2 mines that were recovered from the vicinity.
Burmese troops have also ransacked the houses and market stalls in Pung Swi Yang, stealing anything of value and trashing whatever they left behind. The photos include village cows killed by a bomb dropped by a Burmese jet.
The incidents described give just a small snapshot of the issues faced by villagers displaced by the fighting in recent months, with the mines recovered so far likely to be a fraction of the total that have been left by the Burma Army in recent fighting across central Kachin.
In April, heavy fighting between the Burma Army and the KIA led to the displacement of at least 5000 villagers from Danai, Hpakant, Myitkyina, Mogaung and Injang Yang townships, all of whom now face the prospect of returning to pillaged or destroyed homes and the threat of landmines.
The displacement of so many people, and the indifferent attitude of the Burma Army and government to their plight, led to protests throughout Burma calling for the military to stop preventing IDPs from leaving conflict zones and to allow NGOs to provide them with assistance.
The government gave way to pressure after the issue became known to the international community, but has responded by prosecuting the protest leaders.