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Burma (Myanmar), Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Burma (Myanmar)

Key developments since May 2003: Myanmar’s military and at least 15 rebel groups have continued to use antipersonnel mines; there are some indications of increased mine warfare. There were new reports of “atrocity demining,” with civilians used as human minesweepers in front of Army troops. Three armed opposition organizations with military activities inside Burma have publicly forsworn use of antipersonnel mines by signing the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment: the Arakan Rohingya National Organization, the National United Party of Arakan, and the National Socialists Council of Nagaland (based in India). There has been an expansion of mine risk education activities in 2003 and 2004. Unlike in past years, in 2003 and 2004 Myanmar showed some interest in landmine-related events. United Nations agencies became more engaged in landmine issues related to Myanmar in 2003 and 2004. In April 2004, the ICBL and Nonviolence International launched a new campaign, “Halt Mine Use in Burma.”

Key developments since 1999: Government forces and armed ethnic groups have used antipersonnel mines regularly and extensively throughout the period. In 1999, Landmine Monitor identified ten rebel groups using landmines; the number grew to 15 by 2004. Myanmar remains one of the few countries still producing antipersonnel mines. There has been no humanitarian mine clearance carried out. Government forces have been accused each year of using “human minesweepers,” forcing civilians to walk in front of troops to blow up mines. There is no systematic collection of information about mine casualties, but there is evidence that Myanmar is among the countries with the highest number of casualties each year. The ICRC resumed its joint physical rehabilitation programs with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defense, and with the Myanmar Red Cross in June 1999. In 2002, a new physical rehabilitation and prosthetic center was opened at Hpa-an in Karen State.

Mine Ban Policy

Myanmar’s ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty.[1] It did not participate in any of the Ottawa process meetings, the treaty negotiations, or the signing conference. After voting in favor of the 1996 UN General Assembly resolution calling on governments to pursue an international agreement banning antipersonnel landmines, Myanmar has abstained from voting on every pro-Mine Ban Treaty UN General Assembly resolution, including Resolution 58/53 in December 2003.

Myanmar did not attend any international or regional landmine meeting from 1996 to 2002. In 2003, Myanmar showed some interest in landmine-related events. Representatives of the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations in Geneva met with a Landmine Monitor researcher and UN Mine Action Service staff on the margins of the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February 2003.[2] A delegate of the Myanmar Red Cross/Ministry of Home Affairs attended the seminar “APMs: Are They Worth It?” held in Bangkok in August 2003, where the delegate stated that the problem of insurgency was preventing Myanmar from joining the Mine Ban Treaty.[3] In September 2003, two representatives from the Myanmar Embassy to Thailand attended the opening session of the Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, the first time representatives of Myanmar officially observed any Mine Ban Treaty event.[4] A government representative was present at the Humanitarian Mine/UXO Clearance Technology and Cooperation Workshop in Kunming, China on 26-28 April 2004.[5]

Speaking to the UN General Assembly on behalf of the ASEAN member states, the Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations stated in October 2003, “We take note of the convening of the Fifth Meeting of States Parties [to the Mine Ban Treaty] in Bangkok, Thailand...the first time the meeting was held in Asia. We call upon the international community to provide the necessary assistance to mine-affected countries to ensure their access to material equipment, technology and financial resources for mine clearance and increased humanitarian assistance for victims of landmines.”[6]

However, the government remains difficult to approach, and repeated requests by Landmine Monitor during the past three years for information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Yangon have gone unanswered.

In January 2000, the pro-democracy Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) endorsed the mine ban as its policy, stating it will “recommend to the People’s Parliament, as soon as it is convened, as a matter of immediate national concern, accession to the [Mine Ban] Convention.”[7]

The United Nations became more engaged in landmine issues related to Myanmar in 2003 and 2004. UN agencies undertook an internal review in early 2003 to examine possible ways to implement their mandate in relation to the landmine crisis within the country.[8] On 17 February 2003, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Rangoon hosted a briefing session on the landmine crisis in Myanmar, with participation by Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and ICBL Coordinator Liz Bernstein.[9] UNICEF appointed in mid-2003 an officer looking at issues affecting children in conflict, and landmines are high on the agenda.[10] In its April 2004 resolution, the UN Commission on Human Rights urged Myanmar to consider as a matter of high priority becoming a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.[11]

In April 2004, the ICBL launched a new campaign, “Halt Mine Use in Burma,” which seeks to engage all relevant parties in the country in talks to stop mine use out of humanitarian concern and as a first step toward a total landmine ban. Nonviolence International’s (NI) Southeast Asia office has translated and published the Landmine Monitor report in the Burmese language every year since 1999 and distributed it both within the country and along its border regions, where the mine problem is particularly severe. NI launched a Mine Ban Advocacy, Research and Action Program focused on Burma in 2000, which has consistently attempted to engage the ruling military authorities, the opposition National League of Democracy, and the numerous armed non-state actors (NSAs) within the country in dialogue and action on a landmine ban.[12] After the re-commencement of talks on cessation of hostilities between the SPDC and the Karen National Union in December 2003, the Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines urged both sides to acknowledge the landmine problem and take action on it in the context of any cessation of hostilities agreement.[13]


Myanmar’s military forces and armed ethnic groups have used landmines extensively throughout the long-running civil war.[14] Public health workers in Loo Plei Township of Karen State told Landmine Monitor that 2002-2003 saw more military activity and an increase in mine use compared to the 2000-2001 period.[15] In August 2003 the Myanmar Army together with the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) launched a military operation dubbed “Power Over the Land” against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). During this military campaign large numbers of landmines were laid by all sides. Myanmar Army units were ordered to lay antipersonnel mines along infiltration routes used by the KNLA.[16] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that as a result of the fighting they were treating more war wounded, especially landmine casualties.[17]

As detailed in previous editions of Landmine Monitor Report, both Myanmar’s regular army forces (known as the Tatmadaw) and its special western border force (known as Na Sa Ka) have used antipersonnel mines.[18] They have used mines for typical military purposes such as to protect their military camps and to block infiltration routes, but have also used them frequently in civilian areas, on roads and on footpaths. The Myanmar Army has allegedly planted mines near villages in order to prevent people from returning after the army forcibly evicted them during counterinsurgency campaigns.[19] Some Karen villages in Pa-an District had to move three times after each previous settlement was burned and mined. In those areas, villagers were able to identify six different types of mines that were frequently used.[20] Villagers living in Karenni state were advised by the SPDC that they had laid mines on certain footpaths.[21]

In the Tenasserim Division, Myanmar’s military forces were reported to have laid mines along the Thai-Burma border in 1999, 2000, and 2001.[22] In 2001, Thailand accused Myanmar forces and the United Wa State Army of laying mines inside Thailand.[23] Bangladesh accused Myanmar forces of planting mines inside Bangladesh’s territory in 1999 and 2000.[24] Landmine Monitor is not aware of any such allegations by Thailand or Bangladesh since 2001.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

Myanmar produces the MM1, which is modeled after the Chinese Type 59 stake-mounted fragmentation mine, the MM2, which is similar to the Chinese Type 58 blast mine, and a Claymore-type directional fragmentation mine. Landmines are produced at the Myanmar Defense Products Industries No. 4 plant in Pyay (Prome) in central Burma.[25]

The Landmine Monitor has not received any allegations of Myanmar exporting antipersonnel mines or components, although some were offered for sale to Bangladesh in late 2003.[26] Myanmar authorities have, in the past, stated that they had a policy of no export,[27] but have not adopted a formal moratorium or ban. Myanmar’s military forces have transferred arms, including landmines, to the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in the past.[28]

The Myanmar government will release no official information about the types and quantities of antipersonnel mines it stockpiles. As previously reported in Landmine Monitor, Myanmar has obtained and used antipersonnel mines of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Soviet, United States, and unidentified manufacture.[29]

Non-State Actors Use

Burma has a large number of armed political organizations within its borders.[30] In the past five years, Landmine Monitor has identified 15 armed opposition groups that use antipersonnel mines.[31] Among them are the Shan State Army; Karenni Army; Karen National Liberation Army; All Burma Students Democratic Front; People’s Defence Forces; Myiek-Dawei United Front; Wa National Army; Pao People’s Liberation Front; Chin National Army; All Burma Muslim Union, as well as a cluster of smaller organizations in southern Karen State who field a few combatants under the banner of the DAB Column.[32] Other armed groups that use landmines, but currently have non-hostility pacts with the ruling authorities, include the United Wa State Army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.[33] Another group with a non-hostility pact, the New Mon State Party, recommenced mine warfare in 2002 during armed confrontation with a splinter faction, the Hongsawatoi Restoration Party, which also used mines.[34]

In addition to those 15 armed groups, there are allegations that the Kayin New Land Party and the Karenni State Nationalities Peoples’ Liberation Front have used mines within Karenni (Kayan) State, but Landmine Monitor has been unable to verify the information.[35]

In 2003, the most widespread use of mines by armed opposition groups was likely by the Karen National Liberation Army. The KNLA laid large numbers of landmines withdrawing from attacks by the Myanmar Army. One KNLA commander said, “We retreated, but that does not mean we lost our land. This is because we have used mines to defend ourselves. To come into our base means they will have to face danger.”[36]

In October 2003, National Democratic Front General Secretary Zing Cung told Landmine Monitor that landmines were essential for their survival in the face of army attacks on their territory.[37]

None of the 15 armed groups known to have used mines have indicated that they are willing to halt use. However, three armed organizations, all with military activities inside Burma, have publicly forsworn use of antipersonnel mines by signing the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment (DoC). All are on Burma’s western frontier with Bangladesh or India. The National Socialists Council of Nagaland, which claims to represent people straddling the India-Burma border, signed the DoC on 21 October 2003. The Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) and the National United Party of Arakan, which together make up the Arakan Independence Alliance, the largest anti-junta military alliance on the Bangladesh-Burma border, committed to the DoC on 5 December 2003. Upon signing, ARNO’s president stated, “Many people have been killed or injured by these mines, and the mined areas are not marked. Most victims have no access to treatment or assistance.”[38]

A member of the Karen National Union attended as an observer the “Looking Back, Looking Forward Workshop on Engaging Non-State Actors in a Landmine Ban” organized by the ICBL Non-State Actors Working Group and Geneva Call in Bangkok, Thailand on 13 September 2003.

NSA-Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

Several armed groups are capable of making a variety of antipersonnel mines, including blast mines, fragmentation mines, and Claymore-type mines.[39] In April 2004, ethnic militiamen in Karen State showed Landmine Monitor a “homemade” plastic mine with an anti-tilt mechanism to prevent removal by the enemy. While some armed groups admit to having antipersonnel mine stockpiles, or components for making antipersonnel mines, none will reveal quantities. One NSA military commander revealed that his group had purchased enough explosives from another NSA to make mines for another ten years at a cost of 300 Thai Baht (US$7) per kilogram. He said it cost an average of $1 per mine for explosive and other components.[40]

At least several hundred landmines in NSA arsenals have come from lifting SPDC-laid mines, or from SPDC stocks seized during operations.[41] Other factory-manufactured landmines have been obtained from the clandestine arms market.

Former DKBA combatants confirmed DKBA involvement in producing handmade mines, as well as receiving factory-made mines from the Myanmar Army. These same DKBA combatants also alleged that they purchased mines and components from Thai businessmen who operate logging concessions in DKBA-controlled areas close to Myawaddy.[42]

In addition to the groups identified above as landmine users, there may be others that have stockpiles of antipersonnel mines. The Kachin Independence Army is believed to still possess antipersonnel mines, although it is not known to have used any since agreeing to a cessation of hostilities in 1993.

ARNO, the National United Party of Arakan, and the National Socialists Council of Nagaland should reveal the number of mines in their stockpiles, if any, in conformity with the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment.[43] ARNO has admitted possession of an antipersonnel mine stockpile.

Landmine Problem

Nine out of fourteen states and divisions in Burma are mine-affected, with a heavy concentration in eastern Burma. Antipersonnel mines have been laid in states bordering Thailand, and along much of the land border between Bangladesh and Burma. A few scattered areas of the India/Burma border are also landmine-polluted.

The Dawna mountain range and Moi riverside close to the Thai border is reportedly heavily mined. Some mountains in Karen State, formerly used as firebases by the KNLA, have been “no go” areas for over a decade due to severe mine infestation. Areas to the north, east, and south of Papun and to the west, south, and north of Myawadi are heavily mine-affected, as well as areas in the Dooplaya District of Karen State bordering on Thailand. Mines were laid in Mon State as fighting took place between two armed organizations within the Mon community. Mines were laid around the Halochanee Refugee Camp near the Thai border. Hillsides surrounding the Lawpita hydroelectric power station in central Karenni state have been mined to secure it from attack by rebel groups. The Yadana Mountain in central Karenni State has also been heavily mined by rebel and Myanmar Army units, both of whom run gem mines on the mountain.[44]

The Army has often laid mines close to areas of civilian activity. According to interviews with civilian mine survivors over a number of years, more than 14 percent were injured within half a kilometer from the center of a village, and 63 percent had been to the area often before they stepped on a mine.[45] An NGO worker who visited villages in Hpa-an district with public health officials in 2004 stated that there were mined areas within a five-minute walk of all villages visited.[46]

A mission from the Myanmar Ministry of Home Affairs sent in late 2003 to inspect sites proposed for border area development by Thailand’s Prime Minister reported that the area was devastated by landmines and extensive mine clearance would need to take place prior to any development of the area.[47] Thai contractors who were hired to work on a controversial dam on the Salaween river opposite Mae Hong Son province of Thailand have reportedly not been able to move their equipment across the border due to mine infestation of the area.[48]

In a 2002 research project in Pa-an District of Karen State, 30 heads of households were interviewed about the location of dangerous mined areas. Only five of them, all male, said that they knew the dangerous areas, even though the entire village regularly entered mined areas for foraging and farming.[49]

Neither the government nor non-state actors conduct systematic marking of mined areas. There are some isolated examples. In early 2004, a traveler on the road from Hpa-an to Myawaddy reported seeing signs posted on a minefield. The signs were on both sides of the road and simply said “Mines,” in Burmese. One area in Tongoo District that was mined by the Army was posted with a red and white hand-painted sign by the local military personnel.[50] Although combatants have repeatedly told Landmine Monitor researchers that they give “verbal warnings” to civilians living near areas which they mine, no civilian mine survivor interviewed by Nonviolence International mentioned or reported the issuance of verbal warnings.[51]

Mine Clearance and Mine Risk Education

No humanitarian demining activities have been carried out in Burma.[52] Some rebel groups and villagers remove mines with any equipment available. In Karen State, a group of villagers carried out clearance with a simple consumer-quality metal detector, a rake, machetes, and by hand.[53] Several rebel groups have mine detection equipment.[54] An evangelical Christian aid organization runs a training course on “render safe” procedures and mine removal in Karen State.[55]

Although mine risk education (MRE) is rarely available to ordinary people in Burma, there has been an expansion of MRE activities in 2003 and 2004. In February 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross made an assessment to determine whether to begin an MRE program. UNICEF held an internal meeting in October 2003 to discuss the possibility of launching an MRE program within the country, but has made no determination on when or how to do so.

The Myanmar Red Cross and UK-based Mines Advisory Group reproduced in mid-2003 a series of MRE posters used in Cambodia, and under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs held a mine risk reduction workshop in Moulemein, Mon State, in June 2003 for 40 participants, including teachers, midwives, nurses, teachers, religious students and members of the police force. MAG held two previous workshops in Rangoon in 2003 and 2002.[56]

Since 2002, Nonviolence International has been running an advanced mine risk education program to train MRE trainers in Karen State. In 2003, 60 public health medics were trained, and they have begun to undertake mine risk education in mine-affected villages in Dooplaya and Hpa-an Districts of the state.[57] NI found that that 80 percent of trainees felt threatened by landmines in their daily lives and 53 percent had accidentally entered mine areas.[58]

In late November 2003, 5,500 Burmese refugees living in refugee camps in Thailand participated in events for a “No Mine Day” promoted by Handicap International.[59] Another 1,400 participated in the “100,000 Hands Against Landmines” events prior to the September 2003 Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Bangkok.

Handicap International has run a mine risk education program in three refugee camps in Thailand along the Burma border since June 2001. The target audience is Burmese refugees in Thailand.

Atrocity Demining

SPDC military units operating in areas suspected of mine contamination have repeatedly been accused of compelling non-combatant civilians to serve as porters for the military, and to walk in front of patrols to detonate landmines which may lay on the road or path (see Landmine Monitor Reports 1999-2003). People who are forced to do this activity are seized in rural areas from their paddy fields, or in urban areas from tea shops and markets; others are taken from the prisons.

In mid-2003, a community leader witnessed people dragging a tree trunk by ropes ahead of a unit of Army soldiers in order to detonate landmines on a path outside Papun town in northern Karen State.[60] During a major offensive launched by the Army against the Karen National Liberation Army in August 2003, an increasing number of people fleeing forced portering and forced minesweeping entered Thailand. A prisoner taken for military portering stated, “On our trip from Mae Pleh to the Burmese Army base I saw many dead porters from stepping on landmines. This scared me and I did not want to end like this.”[61] He fled in the night after being told he would be made to clear landmines the following day. Other porters who fled from the same military operation tell of numerous casualties both in the military and among the porters. Photographs of people killed by landmines, allegedly while portering, have also been delivered to Landmine Monitor.

In an interview broadcast by BBC radio in September 2003, a man told his story of being forced to walk in front of Army units and being left for dead after he detonated a landmine. Cattle traders found him and smuggled him to Thailand, where he received treatment for his injury.[62] In the October 2003 military assault by the Army on the KNLA’s 7th Brigade Headquarters, 300 prisoners were forced to serve as porters and human minesweepers, according to some who later escaped and fled to Thailand. They said at least three of the porters died from landmine blasts during the assault.[63] Villagers in northern Karen State reported that the military used villagers to sweep for mines rather than equipment because this would deter the rebels from laying them.[64]

According to a survey in Burmese refugee camps conducted by a humanitarian aid organization, more than seven percent of interviewed refugees identified being “forced to walk on minefields” as a source of trauma in their lives in Burma.[65] Another survey among the same refugee population by Danish doctors in 1998 and 1999 received numerous reports of human minesweeping.[66] Forced labor to clear mines in Burma was also documented in a report issued by the International Labor Organization.[67]

Landmine Casualties[68]

Landmine casualties appear to be increasing, especially during the last five to six years; however, systematic collection of data remains difficult, especially in relation to those killed rather than injured in an incident. Most of the areas in which landmines have been laid extensively are still experiencing armed conflict.

The total number of landmine casualties in Burma remains unknown. A senior medic working for the Karen National Union stated that according to KNU records the number of people killed or injured by mines, including combatants and civilians, is in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 per year.[69] A Burmese medical doctor stated that the national landmine casualty rate at the height of the internal war in the mid-1970s was 4,000 per year.[70] Using disparate data sources in 2000, Landmine Monitor researchers estimated a landmine casualty rate of 1,500 people per year.[71] A 1994 report by the US State Department provided a similar estimate.[72] This would indicate that the number of new mine casualties in Burma each year has remained at a very high level for a decade or longer, and that each year Burma suffers among the highest number of mine casualties of any country in the world.

Limited data, mostly on mine casualties assisted by NGOs or in refugee camps or hospitals on the Thai-Burma border, give an indication of the scope of the problem. In January 2003, six people traveling in Karen state in the township of Bu Tho were injured when a mine hung in a tree exploded;[73] and in May, four people were killed and eight injured, including two porters and ten soldiers, when four mines exploded during an alleged mine-laying operation in southeastern Burma.[74] In November, two Shan people were killed and four others injured after stepping on a landmine in Thon District of Shan State.[75] Since 2001, Médecins Sans Frontières has treated or transferred for treatment at least 107 landmine casualties from the Mae La refugee camp on the Burma-Thai border: 51 war-injured (86 percent mine-injured) in 2003; 47 in 2002; and at least 17 in 2001.[76] Since 2000, the Mae Sot Hospital in Tak province has admitted at least 316 Burmese landmine casualties: 63 in 2003;[77] 103 in 2002; 84 in 2001; and 66 in 2000.[78] Since 2002, the ICRC War Wounded Program assisted around 70 mine casualties, including about 55 in 2003 and 15 in 2002.[79]

According to three surveys completed in recent years, the majority of mine casualties are male (94 percent in NI survey, 95 percent in HI survey, and 96.6 percent in IRC/CDC), and the majority are engaged in military activities at the time of the incident (61 percent in NI, 61.5 percent in HI, and 65 percent in IRC/CDC).[80] Civilian casualties mostly occur while engaged in normal daily activities, such as collecting food in the forest, cutting and collecting firewood, and traveling to another place.[81] The majority of mine incidents, 80 percent, occur during the dry season, when it is easier to move or travel.[82]

Landmine Monitor has interviewed ten Army landmine survivors within Burma; seven were aged between 15 and 17 years at the time of the incident, and all but one remain in the Army.[83] Military medics have stressed the importance of quickly reaching landmine-injured soldiers so that they do not kill themselves after being injured by a landmine.[84]

Domestic and wild animals, including buffalo, tigers, wild pigs and dogs, also fall victim to landmines. A bull elephant died from its injuries after stepping on an antipersonnel landmine in Shan State in late 2003.[85] One village in Loo Plei Twp in Karen State reportedly lost up to 20 cattle in 2003 alone in landmine incidents.[86] At least 26 elephants have reportedly been killed by landmines along the Bangladesh-Burma border,[87] and up to 90 are believed to have been killed or injured along Burma’s border with Thailand. The Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in Thailand has treated nine survivors but they believe that many more die each year. All mine-injured elephants were involved in logging in Burma.[88]

Casualties from unexploded ordnance (UXO) were reported to Landmine Monitor for the first time in 2003. Several children died when an unexploded rifle grenade found in a field detonated, and a villager and child died after tampering with an unexploded mortar shell. During MRE training in Karen State, 40 percent of public health medic trainees reported knowing of someone killed or injured by UXO.[89]

Survivor Assistance[90]

Survivor assistance continues to be marginal due to the neglect of the medical system by the military rulers.[91] According to limited interviews with landmine survivors within Burma, military survivors receive better treatment than civilians and are more likely to have post-injury employment opportunities.

Availability of medical care depends on where the mine incident occurs, with an average of 12 hours elapsing before first medical attention. After emergency care, the majority of known landmine survivors are hospitalized in Thailand.[92] Survivor assistance for Burmese mine casualties comes from several sources: the public health system; assistance available from non-state sources; assistance available in non-SPDC controlled areas; and assistance available in neighboring states. In areas near its borders, the security situation and poor internal facilities drive some Burmese to seek medical services in neighboring states. The Mae Tao Clinic, which is located near the Thai-Burma border, as well as Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), American Refugee Committee (ARC), Aide Medicale International (AMI), and Malteser Germany (MHD), all provide emergency referral in Thailand for war-injured arriving at their refugee camp facilities.[93]

In 2002 and 2003, the ICRC supported local health care centers in the areas affected by fighting to improve the quality of care available to the sick and war-wounded, including mine casualties. Seven hospitals were rehabilitated in Karen, Mon and Shan states, and a health care center was rebuilt in Mong Pu On. The ICRC also covered the cost of treatment for war-wounded in Burma and Thailand.[94] In 2003, of the 76 war-wounded were treated either in Burma or in Thailand, 70 percent were injured by mines; 20 people were treated in 2002, including 15 mine survivors.[95]

Physical rehabilitation and prosthetics are available to landmine survivors through the National Rehabilitation Centers (NRC). The ICRC resumed its joint programs with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defense and with the Myanmar Red Cross in June 1999. There are two prosthetics workshops in Rangoon, one in Mandalay, Pyinoolwin, Yenanthar, and Hpa-an. The Hpa-an center in Karen State was set up jointly by the ICRC and the Myanmar Red Cross in 2002. Many of the amputees attending the new center had been without prosthetic services for more than ten years; 73 percent were mine survivors. In 2003, the Outreach Prosthetic Program referred 724 amputees from remote and border areas to prosthetic centers. Prostheses are provided free-of-charge. The ICRC also provides on-going training for technicians and physiotherapists. Two technicians, supported by the ICRC, from the MoH and Defense Medical Services, returned in October 2003 after the completion of three years training at the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics; six other students are currently enrolled with two expected to graduate and return at the end of 2004.

The ICRC is the only assistance organization directly involved in physical rehabilitation programs with the government. Since 1999, the ICRC-supported centers produced 7,138 prostheses (4,682 for mine survivors), and 2,972 crutches; 2,177 prostheses (1,527 for mine survivors) and 1,922 crutches were produced in 2003. Compared globally, Myanmar ranks second to Afghanistan in the number of artificial limbs the ICRC provides for mine survivors.[96]

From 17-23 January 2004, the Prosthetics Foundation of Thailand held a prosthetics workshop at the border town of Tachilek in Shan State, Burma. The workshop fitted 300 prostheses to 184 war-injured; the majority of amputees were mine survivors.[97]

NGOs provide some vocational training to persons with disabilities in Myanmar. The Association for Aid and Relief, Japan in Rangoon has been providing vocational training in tailoring and hairstyling since March 2000; over 291 people have graduated, including 48 landmine survivors.[98] The Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) regularly conducts vocational training programs for persons with disabilities in different States and Divisions in Myanmar, and some trainees are mine survivors.

In areas close to its borders where ethnic-based militias may control or access territory, some initial care is provided by the relief and medical sections of ethnic organizations. A study of first care by Nonviolence International revealed that seven percent of both civilian and military mine survivors received care from civil health services operated by the ethnic organization in control of the area.[99] The Back Pack Health Worker Teams (BPHWT) run independent medical missions into NSA-controlled areas of Mon, Karen, Karenni, and Shan States, as do some other private organizations, to provide public health education and emergency care, including amputation surgery for mine casualties.[100]

The Trauma Care Foundation Burma (TCFB) has established a “chain of survival” network within sections of Burma not controlled by or accessible to the SPDC to improve pre-hospital survival for war-injured. Since 2001, at least 774 people completed the three-day Village First Helpers (VFH) training course. In 2002, the TCFB reported that 52 percent of all cases of war injuries registered by medical services in ethnic controlled areas were first treated by VFH graduates, up from 15 percent in 2001. The TCFB also runs a Basic Life Support Training Program and an Advanced Life Support Training Program for medics operating in conflict areas. Since 2001, at least 397 medics completed the basic course and 41 completed the advanced course that enables them to teach the VFH and Basic techniques.[101]

Available medical care remains unpredictable as it relies on mobile medical teams being in the area at the time of need. Trained medical care is difficult to obtain in the rugged terrain, amid the chaos and insecurity of civil war. International NGOs active in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border have reportedly not engaged in cross-border medical care in NSA-controlled areas due to the presence of landmines.[102]

The Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) maintains a prosthetic workshop in the Kho Kay area of Karen State. Medical organizations such as BPHWT sometimes refer mine survivors to CIDKP’s workshop.

Disability Policy and Practice

No disability law exists in Myanmar, and while Landmine Monitor was told that a disability policy exists, no one could give details of the content of the policy, even institutions serving persons with disabilities. In February 2002, Disabled People International (DPI) Thailand organized the First National Leadership Seminar for People with Disabilities in Rangoon. Acknowledging the lack of a clear disability policy, either in existence or implementation, DPI submitted a declaration from the seminar, encouraging the government to establish and implement disability laws.[103] Questions to the Myanmar authorities as to whether there has been any follow-up on these recommendations remain unanswered.

[1] The military junta now ruling the country changed its name from Burma to Myanmar. Many ethnic groups within the country still prefer to use the name Burma. In this report, Myanmar is used when referring to the policies and practices of the State Peace and Development Council, and Burma is used otherwise.
[2] Myanmar did not participate in the intersessional meetings itself. Counsellor Daw Aye Aye Mu said she saw no obstacle to Myanmar’s participation in Standing Committee meetings, but no representatives attended the May 2003, February 2004, or June 2004 sessions.
[3] The seminar for civil society, media and academics was an initiative of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Royal Thai Government and the Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines leading up to the Fifth Meeting of States Parties.
[4] Second Secretary Moe Naing Aung and Counsellor U Hla Pe Tan attended the formal opening of the meeting, and one further afternoon session, but told Landmine Monitor they had “no instructions” from the capital regarding their participation.
[5] U Thet Win of the Consulate General of Myanmar in Kunming attended the meeting, but made no public interventions.
[6] Statement by U Mya Than, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations in Geneva, on behalf of the ASEAN member states, to the First Committee, UN General Assembly, New York, 14 October 2003.
[7] Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines Press Release, 1 March 2000. None of the candidates elected in the 1990 elections have been allowed to take their seats in Parliament. In 1998, representatives of the major elected parties formed the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) to attempt to carry out their legal mandate.
[8] Interview with the United Nations Resident Representative, Rangoon, November 2003.
[9] See Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 563.
[10] Since mid-2003, this officer at UNICEF’s SE Asia and the Pacific Regional Office has organized consultations between UNICEF and other partners on the landmine situation in Burma, and assessments of the need for mine risk education programs have taken place.
[11] United Nations Economic and Social Council, “Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar,” E/CN.4/2004/L.34, 9 April 2004.
[12] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 624-625.
[13] The press release called for both parties to clearly and unambiguously mark their minefields on the date of the commencement of a ceasefire, refrain from laying mines, and seek the assistance of United Nations agencies to develop and implement mine action. TCBL Press Release, Bangkok, 1 March 2004.
[14] Based on a mission in March 2003, the UN Commission for Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Myanmar concluded that “all parties to the conflict used landmines.” Interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to the United Nations General Assembly, 5 August 2003, A/58/219, point 61.
[15] Landmine Monitor discussions with public health workers trained in Mine Risk Education at a Nonviolence International training program, Mae Sot, Thailand, 3 October 2003.
[16] Information provided by Myanmar military officers, September and October 2003.
[17] Oral reports by MSF and ICRC representatives at the Coordinating Committee Serving Displaced Persons in Thailand (CCSDPT) meetings attended by Landmine Monitor researchers, Bangkok, 10 September and 8 October 2003. The CCSDPT is the NGO coordination organization for humanitarian relief efforts aiding refugees on the Burma-Thai border.
[18] Previous editions of Landmine Monitor Report have identified the units responsible and the locations of most significant use.
[19] Karen Human Rights Group, “Papun and Nyaunglebin Districts: The SPDC’s Dry Season Offensive Operations,” 5 April 2002, pp. 1-3.
[20] Chutimas Suksai, “Participatory Research on Sources of Insecurity in Gho Kay village, Karen Liberated Area, Burma, 2002.” Research was conducted in late 2002 for the Small Arms Survey (Geneva) and Nonviolence International. The six were described by the villages as 1) Round, tubular, landmines manufactured by China; 2) Plastic landmines which can remain active for three years; 3) Tubular landmine manufacture in Russia; 4) Round landmines manufactured in China, 5) Claymore mines; and 6) traps hidden in hay and rice stacks which explode when disturbed.
[21] Military order published on 17 March 2002 by the Strategic Operations Command Group, Southern Command HQ. Copy provided by Karen Human Rights Group to Landmine Monitor.
[22] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 470, and Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 625. Military units responsible for the antipersonnel mines laid in 2001 were also identified.
[23] Interviews with officials at the Thai Foreign Ministry; Wassana Nanuam, “Wa took the hill to protect drug plants,” Bangkok Post, 12 May 2001.
[24] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 433.
[25] Claymore mines have allegedly been used with victim activation/tripwire fuzing. The Type 59 copy has been modified with a weather cap.
[26] “Dhaka, Yangon eye defence pairing,” The Daily Star, Dhaka, 21 September 2003. A twelve-member Burmese military delegation visited Bangladesh in September 2003. The delegation was headed by Lt. Gen. Aung Hwe from the Defense Ministry in Rangoon.
[27] Myanmar’s UN Representative U Mya Than stated, “Myanmar is supportive of banning exports, transfers and indiscriminate use of APLs,” Explanation of Vote on Anti-Personnel Mines, undated document, 52nd UN General Assembly, 1996. Also see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 469.
[28] Interview with former DKBA commander, Thay Ka Ya village, Burma, 30 November 2001. Transfers by the SPDC to the DKBA appear to have ceased in 2000.
[29] “Myanmar’s Forgotten Minefields,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, Vol. 12, No. 10, October 2000; “Landmines in Burma: The Military Dimension,” Working Paper No 352, Australian National University Strategic & Defense Studies Centre, November 2000. The mines include: Chinese Types-58, -59, -69, -72A; Russian POMZ-2, POMZ-2M, PMN, PMD-6; US M-14, M-16A1, M-18, Indian/British LTM-73, LTM-76.
[30] According to one source, there are more than 45,000 men under arms in ethnic and rebel groups. International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2003-2004 (London: Oxford University Press), p. 166. Although some of these groups have verbal agreements to cease armed hostility, a formal ceasefire has been signed with only one group. All groups maintain their arms and no further actions on a peace accord are being pursued.
[31] Most of these groups acknowledged using antipersonnel landmines in interviews conducted by Landmine Monitor in Thailand, Bangladesh, India, and Burma between 1999 and 2004. Landmine Monitor has confirmed use through interviews with refugees, migrants, humanitarian aid workers and religious and medical personnel.
[32] The DAB column is an armed wing for political opposition organizations involved in the Democratic Alliance of Burma, including the Democratic Party for a New Society, the People’s Patriotic Party, and others.
[33] About a dozen armed organizations have agreed, verbally, to cease hostility with the SPDC. Although frequently referred to as “ceasefire” groups, none has signed a ceasefire leading to a negotiated settlement. All maintain their arms, including their antipersonnel landmines, which are sometimes used for internal clashes, or for other purposes.
[34] Possession or use of mines by the groups listed above was determined during interviews by the Landmine Monitor with the leadership of various ethnic and rebel groups. These meetings took place at locations in Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang, Mae Sot Kanchanaburi, and Sangkhlaburi, Thailand, between 2001 and 2003.
[35] The Landmine Monitor has received several reports from people within Karenni State claiming unspecified armed groups were laying landmines, and the mines were laid in the areas under activity of these two organizations. Additionally, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization has been removed from Landmine Monitor’s list of NSAs using mines in Burma, as it appears to be operating only within Bangladesh.
[36] Remarks of KNLA Lt. Col. Phaw Doh, broadcast on DVB Radio, 24 October 2003.
[37] Interview with General Secretary Zing Cung, 3 October 2003. Formed in 1976, the NDF is a military alliance comprised of nine anti-Rangoon armed ethnic political organizations.
[38] See Geneva Call press releases: “National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Nagaland), the largest armed group in the India sub-continent, commits to no use of anti-personnel mines,” 17 October 2003; “Burmese rebel groups commit to ban antipersonnel (AP) mine,” 5 December 2003. Available at www.genevacall.org .
[39] During an assessment mission for Nonviolence International’s Mine Risk Education program in April 2004, N.I. was shown a stockpile of NSA-manufactured Claymore mines, a plastic mine with an anti-handling device, and a variety of Improvised Explosive Devices. Nonviolence International report (internal), April 2004.
[40] Interview with indigenous military commander, April 2001.
[41] Estimate from photographic evidence of mines in the possession of different NSAs, taken by Landmine Monitor researchers on different occasions over the past three years.
[42] Interview with former Democratic Karen Buddhist Army members, Thay Ka Ya village, Burma, 30 November 2001.
[43] In mid-2004, Geneva Call was in the process of distributing a stockpile verification form to NSAs that had signed the Deed of Commitment. Once received, the NSA is requested to reveal its stockpile quantities in 90 days’ time.
[44] See Landmine Monitor Report 2003, pp. 565-566, for more details and for sources of information regarding mined areas.
[45] Nonviolence International, “Impact of Landmines in Burma 2002,” Bangkok, September 2002.
[46] Interview with NGO worker, 20 April 2004. The NGO worker showed Landmine Monitor researchers photographs of the minefields.
[47] Report related verbally to Landmine Monitor on 17 March 2004 on the outcome of the mission by members of Ministry of Home Affairs to a border area just north of Myawaddy in Karen State.
[48] Oral intervention at CCSDPT meeting, Bangkok, October 2003.
[49] Chutimas Suksai, “Participatory Research on Sources of Insecurity in Gho Kay village, Karen Liberated Area, Burma, 2002.” Research was conducted in late 2002 for the Small Arms Survey (Geneva) and Nonviolence International.
[50] Interview with Karen Human Rights Group, Mae Sot, Thailand, 28 November 2001. Also, Landmine Monitor has a photograph of a sign posted on a tree in Toungoo District near Kler Lah (Bawgali Gyi) village, that (in Burmese) warns: “Do not cut the trees. There are landmines.”
[51] Nonviolence International, “Impact of Landmines in Burma 2002,” Bangkok, September 2002.
[52] Some NSAs and the Tatmadaw conduct military demining. In some cases, NSAs remove SPDC mines and then re-deploy them.
[53] Photographic evidence given to Landmine Monitor during interview with the chief prosthetic technician of the Mae Tao Clinic, Mae Sot, Thailand, 28 November 2001. In another case, villagers in Nyaung Lay Bin district of Karen State returned to their homes after fleeing an offensive to find it mined. They removed over 100 mines themselves, and then re-laid the mines close to a military base. Email from a human rights worker, 22 February 2001.
[54] Photographic documentation from various sources, all undated, showing NSAs involved in detection and lifting operations with electronic detectors.
[55] Video documentation of the activities of the Free Burma Rangers provided to Landmine Monitor in early 2004.
[56] Email from Tim Carstairs, Policy Director, MAG, 4 October 2004.
[57] Public health medics with the Backpack Health Worker Program, in the Karen Health and Welfare Department, and in some other ethnic health groups, were trained in techniques to disseminate mine risk messages and find their way out of a minefield or remove mine victims from a suspected mined area. Information provided by Nonviolence International to Landmine Monitor in February 2004.
[58] Nonviolence International survey of trainees for MRE. The activity which took them into the mined areas was most commonly travel or flight as a refugee, and most extricated themselves by moving backward out of the area.
[59] Handicap International Thailand, “Annual Report 2003.”
[60] Interview with community leader, Hpa-an, October 2003.
[61] This incident of forced portering took place in mid-September when the person was picked out of Thayawaddy Prison, along with 50 other persons, by the military. After crossing into Thailand with four other escaped porters to seek refuge, they were interviewed by aid workers on 20 October 2003. Interviews were passed to Landmine Monitor.
[62] “Outlook programme” BBC World Service, aired 21 September 2003.
[63] Email communication with escaped porters, 20 October 2004.
[64] See Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 567.
[65] International Rescue Committee and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Mental Health Assessment among Karenni Refugees in 3 Camps in Mae Hong Son,” Thailand, August 2001.
[66] Hans Draminsky Peterson, et al., “Results of Medical Examination of Refugees from Burma,” Danish Medical Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 3, 3 June 1998, pp. 313-316; Hans Draminsky Peterson, et al., “Human Rights Violations in Burma/Myanmar in 1999,” Report of Fact-finding Mission in December 1999; Danish Medical Group, Danchurch Aid and Amnesty International (Denmark), 14 March 2000.
[67] International Labor Organization, “Forced Labor in Myanmar (Burma),” Geneva, 2 July 1998.
[68] For more details on reported mine casualties in Burma, see Landmine Monitor Report 2003, pp. 567-569, and Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 630-632.
[69] A senior medical officer stated that this figure is recorded in non-public records kept by the KNU. Landmine Monitor interview in Mae Sot, November 2003.
[70] A Burmese surgeon now residing in the United States, but previously working in the National Hospital system in Burma, stated that over a three-year period 12,000 landmine casualties occurred on several frontlines in Burma.
[71] Estimate compiled by using partial medical records obtained from a hospital in Karen State, combined with records from the National Rehabilitation Center in Rangoon and the number of new prostheses given to new mine survivors. Estimate assumed 30 percent of mine casualties die before receiving any medical attention.
[72] US Department of State, “Hidden Killers: The global landmine crisis,” December 1994, p. 18.
[73] Undated internal report provided to Landmine Monitor by the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People in Mae Sot, Thailand, 22 March 2003.
[74] “4 killed, 8 injured in land mine blast in Myanmar,” Associated Press, 26 May 2003.
[75] Cheum News No. 39, 17 November 2003 (Thai language).
[76] Data from the Emergency Medical Referral unit of Médecins Sans Frontières; email from Dr Eugenie d’Alessandro, Field Coordinator, Médecins Sans Frontières, Mae Sot, 27 March 2003.
[77] Fax from Sushira Chonhenchob, Disability and Development Manager, HI-Thailand, 1 March 2004. The initial data for 2003 may be revised upward as records are reviewed.
[78] Mae Sot Hospital data supplied to Handicap International. Discrepancies exist with current statistics and data originally provided to Landmine Monitor in previous years.
[79] Letters from ICRC Regional Delegation, 27 February and 19 April 2004; interview with Marcus Geisser, ICRC Delegate, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 31 December 2002.
[80] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 631 and 634.
[81] Nonviolence International, “Analysis of the Impact of Landmines in Burma,” Internal Report, 2002, p. 9.
[82] Landmine Monitor analysis of incidents by month, from statistics collected at the Mae Sot hospital by Handicap International.
[83] Interviews conducted during travels within Burma by Landmine Monitor researchers between 1999 and 2003.
[84] Landmine Monitor interview with military medics, Mae Sot, Thailand, 4 February 2004.
[85] Photographic evidence was sent to Landmine Monitor by medics in Shan State in October 2003.
[86] Reported by a Karen Health and Welfare officer during Mine Risk Education training conducted by Nonviolence International in Mae Sot, 3 October 2003.
[87] Mizzima News Group, 22 October 2000.
[88] Interview by Next Step Productions at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) hospital in Lampang, Thailand in September 2003; information from Friends of the Asian Elephant display at Fifth Meeting of States Parties in Bangkok, Thailand, September 2003. FAE estimates that only about 10 percent of the elephants stepping on mines that they know about have reached their facility.
[89] These stories and several other reports of encountering UXO were recorded in a survey of trainees for Nonviolence International’s Mine Risk Education program during 2003 and 2004.
[90] For more information see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 632-634.
[91] Nonviolence International, “Myanmar’s Expenditures on the Military, Health and Education,” Special Report, August 2002.
[92] Nonviolence International, “Analysis of the Impact of Landmines in Burma,” Internal Report, 2002.
[93] For more details on assistance available in neighboring states see Thailand report in this edition of the Landmine Monitor Report.
[94] ICRC, “Annual Report 2003,” Geneva, June 2004, p. 146; “Annual Report 2002,” June 2003, p. 159.
[95] Letters from ICRC Regional Delegation, 27 February and 19 April 2004; interview with Marcus Geisser, ICRC Delegate, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 31 December 2002.
[96] ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Programs, “Annual Report 2003,” 9 March 2004, pp. 13, 18-20, and 26; “Annual Report 2002,” June 2003; “Annual Report 2001,” 14 April 2002; “Annual Report 2000,” 31 March 2001.
[97] Television news reports in Thailand on 23 January 2004 and subsequent interview with Krianglit Sukcharoensin of the Royal Prosthetics Foundation.
[98] Fax reply from AAR-Japan, 28 November 2003.
[99] Nonviolence International, “Impact of Landmines in Burma 2002.” The survey included interviews with 192 landmine survivors.
[100] BPHWT is a program of humanitarian assistance run out of the Mae Tao Clinic and consists of 60 small groups who travel in ethnic-controlled areas of Burma with medicines, food and tools for emergency care in backpacks.
[101] Trauma Care Foundation, “Burma: Chain of Survival-Pre Hospital and Trauma Management Program Report 2002;” interviews with TCFB, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 31 December 2002.
[102] Comment from representative of MSF at the Committee for Co-ordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand, 13 March 2002.
[103] The declaration, written in Burmese, was submitted to the leaders of the Myanmar government and stated that participants would “cordially welcome a law for the disabled,” according to an attendee from Thailand, Ltc. Topang Kulkhanchit, Regional Development Officer for Disabled Peoples International Asia-Pacific, Bangkok, 12 June 2003.