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Last Updated: 30 October 2013

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact


Mines are believed to be concentrated along parts of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar’s borders with Bangladesh, China, 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 50 townships in Kachin, Kayin (Karen), Kayah (Karenni), Mon, Rakhine, and Shan states, as well as in Bago (Pegu) and Tanintharyi (Tenasserim) regions, suffer from some degree of mine contamination, primarily from antipersonnel mines.[1] 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 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) in townships on the Indian border of Chin state and in the Sagaing region.[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: Chipwi, Mansi, Mogaung,Momauk, Myitkyina, Tsawlaw, 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, Loilen, Mawkmai, Mongpan, Mongton, Monghpyak, Namhsan Tachileik, Namtu, 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, but the location or full extent of such contamination is not known.[3]

The Kachin Information Office reported in April 2013 that the Myanmar Air Force used cluster munitions of unknown manufacture in Kachin State between 14 December 2012 and 8 January 2013, but the report has not been verified.[4]

Mine Action Program

Myanmar has agreed in principle to the creation of a mine action center under the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), led by President’s Minister, U Aung Min, which is responsible for coordinating negotiation and implementation of peace agreements with Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. As of early August 2013, however, the MPC had yet to present plans for the mine action center to the President for his approval.[5]

The MPC worked with international humanitarian mine action operators in 2013 on preparing a national mine action strategy drafted initially by a UN-contracted consultant. It also drew up national standards in cooperation with the operators. As of the beginning of August 2013, the MPC had not presented the strategy or standards for government approval.

International demining organizations, including DanChurchAid (DCA), HALO Trust, and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), opened offices in Yangon in 2012 and have discussed with the MPC the possibilities for conducting survey and clearance, but as of mid-2013 no agreement had been reached to start operations.[6] Minister U Aung Min told the Monitor that mine clearance is a government priority, but says the peace negotiations and agreements between the government and ethnic minorities need to be firmly established before mine clearance can begin.

The State Minister for Border Affairs, responding to a parliamentary question submitted by a member of parliament 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.[7]

Mine action in 2012

Sporadic mine removal has been reported in recent years by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army), villagers, and ethnic minority organizations. In February 2012, in eastern Hpa-an township in Kayin state, Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Battalion 101 and Border Guard Force (BGF) number three agreed to jointly remove mines in a district where they had both previously planted them but were under pressure by the local population to remove them. Some 30 mines were removed until a BGF soldier accidentally detonated, and was injured by, one of their own mines. Clearance efforts then halted and did not resume.[8] Child soldiers in the Tatmadaw, interviewed in 2012, said that all soldiers were trained to handle mines and that they had witnessed many mine casualties once deployed.[9]

In May 2012, internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled their village in Kachin State reported being captured for forced labor as porters and required to walk in front of Myanmar Army soldiers in order to detonate any landmines.[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]

NPA conducted a three-day assessment of Kuyak Kyi in Bago Division in May 2012 as part of a proposal by Norway, approved by Minister U Aung Min in April 2012, to support the resettlement of communities displaced by conflict.[12] The assessment confirmed that areas considered for resettlement were mine-affected but NPA did not receive subsequent authorization to conduct a more detailed survey of the area.[13]

A national working group on mine risk education was established in 2012 under the Ministry of Social Welfare, with participation of different ministries and by UN agencies and NGOs, but activity was limited in scope and often non-existent in areas with reported casualties.

In 2012, one-day risk education (RE) programs reaching about 12,657 people were conducted in Kayah (Karenni) state by the Karenni Social Welfare and Development Centre and in Karen (Kayin) state by the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, the Karen Relief and Development Committee, and the Mae Tao Clinic.[14]

DCA, on behalf of the Ministry of Social Welfare and UNICEF, conducted five RE workshops in 2012 to township medical and education officials and NGO staff to orient them to the concept of RE. The first two, in February, were in Yangon and in Mandalay.[15] 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. The last orientation was in September in Kayah state.[16] DCA provided training for trainers of RE for community-based organizations in Kachin State in October 2012.[17]


[1] Myanmar/Burma is divided up into both states and regions. 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 former 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 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 by NGOs and other organizations of use, 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; and Mann Thar Lay, “Mandalay workers uncover WWII bomb,” Myanmar Times, Vol. 23, No. 455, 26 January–1 February 2009.

[4] Photographic evidence provided to the Monitor by the Kachin Information Office, 19 April 2013.

[5] Interview with Nay Myo Naing, Assistant Executive Director, Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), in Geneva, 12 April 2013; and Skype interview with Aksel Steen-Nilsen, Program Manager, Myanmar, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), 3 July 2013.

[6] 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.

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

[9] Information provided to the Monitor on condition of anonymity, 11 February 2013.

[10] Information provided on condition of anonymity by humanitarian agency workers supporting the IDP community in Kachin State, Yangon, 16 November 2012.

[11] FBR, “New Relief Teams Graduate, Go on Relief Missions in Kachin State,” Kachin State, Burma, 13 July 2012.

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

[13] Telephone interview with Aksel Steen-Nilsen, NPA, 21 June 2012.

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

[15] Telephone interview with Bjarne Ussing, Program Manager for Myanmar, DCA, 6 April 2012; and email from Jeannette Wijnants, Chief, Child Protection Section, UNICEF, Myanmar, 14 June 2012.

[16] Emails from Bjarne Ussing, DCA, 13 April 2013; and from Jeannette Wijnants, UNICEF, Myanmar, 14 June 2012.

[17] Email from Bjarne Ussing, DCA, 13 April 2013.