– Media Release – May 21 2012 –
Uncertain Ground:Landmine use in eastern Burma
Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) today released a major new report documenting thecontinued challenges posed by widespread use of landmines in eastern Burma and called forurgent humanitarian mine action that addresses the priorities and concerns of communities andbuilds on their existing strategies in response to the threat of landmines. Findings show thatlandmines were deployed by government and non-state armed groups in all seven KHRGresearch areas in the past year, and ongoing mine contamination continues to place civilians’lives and livelihoods at severe risk.The report
Uncertain Ground: Landmine use in eastern Burma
focuses on information gatheredbetween January 2011 and May 2012, and includes evidence from a total of 119 oraltestimonies, sets of images and other documentation, written and collected by communitymembers trained to monitor human rights conditions where they live. The report highlights someof the strategies employed by villagers facing the threat of landmines, while underlining theneed for these strategies to be supplemented and augmented. Local perspectives on landminesare not uniform however, and
calls attention to the fact that civilians in a smallnumber of cases view landmines as a potential source of protection. In such cases, there is anurgent need for viable alternatives that expand villagers’ self-protection options beyond relianceon the use of mines.“Villagers are seeking their own solutions to protect themselves, but they are also directlyrequesting outside support,” said Saw Albert, KHRG’s Field Director. Highlighting the urgency ofthis issue, villagers in three village tracts in T’Nay Hsah Township, Pa’an District describedincidents in which five villagers and 31 animals were killed or injured by mines. In the weekbefore this report was published, a community member sent an urgent message saying that twonew landmines had just exploded injuring livestock. Residents of this area have provided theirnames to KHRG to request immediate mine removal.“Humanitarian actors must also recognise the interrelated nature of abuse in eastern Burma,and address the fact that landmine removal may facilitate other forms of abuse, where it servesto enable the pursuit of military or economic activities undertaken to the detriment of rural ethniccommunities,” says KHRG. “Landmines present added risks to villagers facing other forms ofabuse, including forced labour and displacement. This must be taken into account during anydiscussion of refugee repatriation”. The report offers key findings which will assist local andhumanitarian actors to better understand the complex local dynamics and landmine relatedconcerns expressed by villagers, and the protection strategies that they use to address theseand other human rights concerns. Humanitarian mine action must be undertaken as soon aspossible and must include consultation that accords primacy to the priorities of communitiesliving with the threat of landmines.