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Last Updated: 19 September 2012

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact


Mines are believed to be concentrated on Myanmar’s borders with Bangladesh and Thailand, but are a particular threat in eastern parts of the country as a result of decades of post-independence struggles for autonomy by ethnic minorities. Some 47 townships in Kachin, Karen (Kayin), Karenni (Kayah), Mon, Rakhine, and Shan states, as well as in Pegu (Bago) and Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) divisions[1] suffer from some degree of mine contamination, primarily from antipersonnel mines. Karen (Kayin) state and Pegu (Bago) division are suspected to contain the heaviest mine contamination and have the highest number of recorded victims. The Monitor has also received reports of previously unknown suspect hazardous areas (SHAs) in townships on the Indian border of Chin state.[2]

No estimate exists of the extent of contamination, but the Monitor identified SHAs in the following divisions and townships:

·         Karenni state: all seven townships;

·         Karen state: all seven townships;

·         Kachin state: Mansi, Mogaung, Momauk, Myitkyina, and Waingmaw;

·         Mon state: Bilin, Kyaikto, Mawlamyine, Thanbyuzayat, Thaton, and Ye;

·         Pegu division: Kyaukkyi, Shwekyin, Tantabin and Taungoo;

·         Rakhine state: Maungdaw;

·         Shan state: Hopong, Hsihseng, Langkho, Mawkmai, Mongpan, Mongton, Monghpyak, Namhsan Tachileik, Nanhkan, Yaksawk, and Ywangan;

·         Tenasserim division: Bokpyin, Dawei, Tanintharyi, Thayetchaung and Yebyu; and

·         Chin state.

Explosive remnants of war

Myanmar is also affected by explosive remnants of war (ERW), including mortars, grenades, artillery and ordnance dating back to World War II,[3] but the location or full extent of such contamination is not known. There have been no reports of cluster munition remnants.

Mine Action Program

Myanmar does not have a national mine action program, but as a result of reforms initiated by the government in the past year, ministers have engaged with local and international humanitarian agencies on developing mine action.

The UN Protection working group, chaired by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), created a subgroup focused on the threat of antipersonnel mines in 2009, but in the absence of willingness on the part of the military government to permit any form of mine action this remained inactive. In March 2012, the group decided to reconvene to explore new possibilities for risk education following peace talks between the government and ethnic minority armed groups.[4]

International demining organizations, including DanChurchAid (DCA), HALO Trust, and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), pursued contacts with the government in 2012 to explore possibilities for conducting survey and clearance, but as of June 2012 had not reached the point of establishing formal programs in Myanmar.[5]

A proposal by Norway to support resettlement of communities displaced by conflict, including non-technical survey of SHAs, was agreed by Minister of Railways Aung Min in April 2012.[6] Under that agreement, Norwegian People’s Aid conducted a three-day non-technical assessment of the pilot area of Kuyak Kyi in Bago Division in May 2012 confirming that areas considered for resettlement were affected by mines. As of June 2012, NPA was awaiting permission to conduct a more detailed non-technical survey of the area.[7] NPA had established an office in Yangon due to be staffed full-time from July 2012 and appointed an operations officer due to take up the post in September 2012.[8]

The State Minister for Border Affairs, responding to a parliamentary question submitted by an MP from Kayin/Karen State on clearing mines from six villages in his constituency, said in February 2012 that since the six villages were in an area under the control of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the DKBA would remove the mines, but that the Army was available for assistance if requested.[9]

Mine clearance in 2011

Sporadic mine removal has been reported in recent years by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army), villagers, and ethnic minority organizations. Child soldiers in the Tatmadaw interviewed in 2011 said that all soldiers were trained to handle mines and that they witnessed many mine casualties in Bago Division and Mon and Shan States.[10]

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) include a course on mine identification and emergency clearance procedures for their relief teams. Mines encountered on their missions have either been removed by FBR personnel, who turn them over to anti-government militias, or are removed by militia members.[11] FBR reported that two Karenni Army soldiers were killed on 2 April 2011 when a mine they had removed detonated, also fatally wounding a member of the FBR.[12]

“Atrocity” or forced labor demining[13]

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Quintana, reported in September 2011 that he had received reports of the “use of civilian porters to carry equipment and walk or drive ox-carts in front of military trucks, to clear for landmines.”[14]

A report documenting forced labor demining by convict porters published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) in July 2011 said one major use of convict labor occurred in January 2011 when the Tatmadaw took an estimated 700 prisoners from 12 prisons and labor camps.[15] The report cited interviews with former porters who escaped to Thailand in 2010–2011, including:

·         A former prisoner who estimated that by the time he escaped only 200 of his original group of 800 porters remained, with some 600 escaping, falling ill, being killed by landmines, and ambushed or executed.[16]

·         A porter who stated that he had witnessed at least 10 porters step on mines, and said that some died, others lost their legs or eyes and were left where they were injured.[17]

·         A former prisoner who described how “All of us were separated: three went to a medical unit, some to carry supplies. Others went into a mine clearance unit. The soldiers had metal detectors, but we were given sticks to check for mines.”[18]

·         A former porter who said “Every day we had to walk ahead of the soldiers. They [soldiers] said, “Walk head, go first, there are landmines.” It was our duty, we couldn’t say anything. Sometimes porters were injured by landmines and we carried them back. Other times they were shot.”[19]

Additional detailed reports of villagers forced by the Tatmadaw to clear mines or serve as a human shield against landmines by walking or driving vehicles ahead of soldiers through suspected mined areas were collected by FBR,[20] the KHRG,[21] and the Karen National Union.[22]

Risk Education

Mine/ERW risk education (RE) is inadequate and often non-existent in areas with reported casualties. Very limited activities are carried out in Karen (Kayin) state by the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, in Karenni (Kayah) state by the Karenni Social Welfare and Development Centre, in Shan state by the Lahu Development Union, and in Chin State by the Chin Peoples Action Committee. Throughout 2011 these groups reportedly made presentations reaching about 8,099 people.[23]

DCA, on behalf of the Ministry of Social Welfare and UNICEF, conducted four RE workshops in the first half of 2012. The first two in February were in Yangon and in Mandalay for township medical and education officials, and NGO staff.[24] DCA held two more workshops in late May and early June, in Taunggyi for staff in southern Shan State and in Lashio for officials from northern Shan State. The second two workshops included officials from the Home Affairs Ministry and the police.[25] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that it provided RE in its training programs for staff working in internally displaced camps in Kachin State in October and November 2011.[26]


[1] Myanmar/Burma is divided up into both states and divisions. States are the “home area” of ethnic groups, and are always named after one; other areas, which are not seen as the home area of a specific ethnic group, are called divisions. The ruling military junta changed the name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989 and also changed the names of some states. Many ethnic groups within the country and some states still prefer to use the name Burma. Internal state and division names are given in their common form or with the name adopted by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in parentheses.

[2] Research conducted by the Monitor. Data sources included casualty information, sightings of mine warnings, and reports of use by NGOs and other organizations, as well as interviews with field staff and armed forces’ personnel. The survey included casualty data from January 2007 through June 2010 and data from other informants from January 2008 through June 2010.

[3] See for example Nay Thwin, “World War II ordnance kills three,” Democratic Voice of Burma, 20 March 2012; “WWII bomb kills 7 in Arakan,Irrawaddy, 1 September 2011; Mann Thar Lay, “Mandalay workers uncover WWII bomb,” Myanmar Times, Vol. 23, No. 455, 26 January–1 February 2009.

[4] Landmine Monitor notes of UN Protection Working Group meeting on landmines, Yangon, 24 February 2012; and email from Jeanette Wijnants, Chief, Child Protection Section, UNICEF Myanmar, 12 June 2012.

[5] Telephone interview with Bjarne Ussing, Program Manager for Myanmar, DCA, 6 April 2012; and interview with Andreas Indregard, Country Director Myanmar, NPA, in Bangkok, 12 April 2012.

[6] Interview with Andreas Indregard, NPA, Bangkok, 12 April 2012.

[7] Telephone interview with Aksel Steen-Nilsen, Program Manager, Myanmar, Norwegian People’s Aid, 21 June 2012.

[8] Email from and telephone interview with Aksel Steen-Nilsen, NPA, Bangkok, 21 June 2012.

[9] Interview with Min Aung Lin, Kayin State MP, Hpa-an, Kayin State, 17 February 2012.

[10] Information provided to the Monitor on condition of anonymity, 27 February 2012.

[11] FBR, “FBR Report: Shan Relief Team Training,” Shan State, Burma, May 2011.

[12] FBR, “FBR Karenni Team Member Dies,” FBR Report, 8 April 2011.

[13] The term “atrocity demining” is used by the Monitor to describe forced passage of civilians over mined areas or the forced use of civilians to clear mines without appropriate training or equipment. “Atrocity demining” is sometimes referred to in human rights reports as “human mine sweeping” or “forced labor demining.”

[14]Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar,” UN doc. A/66/365, 16 September 2011, para. 34.

[15] Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma, Human Rights Watch and Karen Human Rights Group, July 2011, p. 15.

[16] Ibid., p. 12.

[17] Ibid., p. 31.

[18] Ibid., p. 29.

[19] Ibid., p. 34.

[21] See, for example, KHRG, “Appendix to Displacement Monitoring Index Update No. 52,” 5 February 2011; KHRG, “Nyaunglebin Interviews: May 2011,” 29 June 2011; and KHRG, “Ongoing forced labour and movement restrictions in Toungoo District,” 12 March 2012.

[23] Information provided by an international humanitarian agency on the basis of anonymity, 16 May 2012.

[24] Telephone interview with Bjarne Ussing, DCA, 6 April 2012; and email from Jeanne Wijnants, UNICEF, Myanmar, 14 June 2012.

[25] Email from Jeanne Wijnants, UNICEF, Myanmar, 14 June 2012.

[26] OCHA, “Humanitarian Response Plan and Situation in Kachin,” 13 December 2011, p. 11.in,