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BANGLADESH , Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: On 6 September 2000 Bangladesh ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, and it entered into force on 1 March 2001. According to Bangladesh officials, Myanmar government forces have continued to plant antipersonnel mines inside Bangladesh territory. From January 2000 to March 2001, at least nine people were killed and six injured by landmines.

Mine Ban Policy

Bangladesh signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 7 May 1998 and ratified it 28 months later on 6 September 2000. Bangladesh is the first South Asian country to ratify the treaty. The Prime Minister signed the ratification document without submitting it to the Parliament, although the treaty enjoyed widespread support.

Ambassador Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury announced the ratification at the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000. He stated, “The overriding factors that guided our decision to ratify was not only our Constitutional commitment, but genuine humanitarian considerations and moral obligations that we uphold as a peace-loving country.... The momentum of the pro-ban movement should not be allowed to slow.... There are no grounds for complacency. We must continue to seek universal adherence to the Convention and its objectives. We call upon those countries that have not yet decided to adhere to the Ottawa principles but still rely on APM to enhance their defense capabilities, to consider becoming party to the Convention.”[1]

The treaty entered into force in Bangladesh on 1 March 2001. A Foreign Ministry official told Landmine Monitor that Bangladesh would soon enact domestic implementation legislation, however no time line has been set.[2] Bangladesh’s initial Article 7 transparency report is due 28 August 2001.

Bangladesh voted in favor of the pro-Mine Ban Treaty UN General Assembly resolution in November 2000, as it had in previous years. Bangladesh did not participate in the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional Standing Committee meetings in December 2000 and May 2001.

Bangladesh also ratified Amended Protocol II (Landmines) of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in September 2000. It participated in the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to Protocol II on 12 December 2000, where H.E. Dr. Iftekhar Chowdhury stated, “The decision to ratify these major instruments required some serious reflection. We needed to strike a balance between humanitarian consideration and our defense requirements. Bangladesh is fully convinced of the tragic and inhumane consequences of the use of weapons covered by the Amended Protocol II. And we are also aware that it is more often than not innocent civilians that fall victim rather than the combatant.”[3]

The Landmine Monitor researcher has found that few civil and military leaders, and even fewer community leaders and ordinary citizens, are even aware of the Mine Ban Treaty or the landmine issue.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

According to officials, Bangladesh has never produced or exported antipersonnel mines. While acknowledging that a stockpile exists, a Foreign Ministry official said that the size of the stockpile of antipersonnel mines in Bangladesh is very negligible in comparison to neighboring countries.[4] Landmine Monitor has been informed that the Bangladesh military possesses antipersonnel mines made in Pakistan, the former USSR, China, and USA.[5] During the military arms exhibition held on Independence Day on 26 March 2001, the Landmine Monitor researcher saw some Pakistan-origin P2 antipersonnel mines on display.[6]


The Bangladesh military maintains that it has never used antipersonnel mines, including against Shanti Bahini, the ethnic rebel group which had been fighting in the Chittagong Hill Tract for 26 years until the peace treaty of 1998.[7]

According to Bangladesh authorities, the Myanmar Army and NaSaKa (border security force) have continued to plant mines inside of Bangladesh. They use mines mainly to stop cross-border guerrilla activities. The NaSaKa is also alleged to use mines to funnel the trafficking of smuggled goods past their outposts so that they can extort a share of the trafficking.[8]

A Bangladesh border security force (BDR) official told Landmine Monitor that use had increased since October 2000. He said, “Usually, NaSaKa plants new mines every year after the monsoon to replace old ones. But this year, with the help of regular forces of their country, they started planting hundreds of antipersonnel mines from October along almost the whole line, including hilly paths and passes.”[9] BDR captured mines that indicated 2000 as the year of manufacture.[10]

In November 2000 the government of Bangladesh issued an advisory note to its citizens living in the border area that they were in danger of mines being laid by the NaSaKa. Amid heightening tension over this mine laying operation, and increasing mine accidents in the area, a flag meeting between border forces on both sides was held. Bangladesh protested the planting of mines and asked for a halt, and reiterated its request that these mines be removed. The NaSaKa accused rebel forces of planting mines on the border.[11]

Non State Actors

Armed rebel groups from the Northeastern states of India and from the Arakan state of Burma are said to be hiding inside Bangladesh, but there is no evidence of stockpiling or use of antipersonnel mines by these groups within Bangladesh territory. Bangladesh military sources claim that during its long-running conflict, Shanti Bahini used pressure mines, improvised explosive devices, and booby-traps; however, Shanti Bahini has denied this.[12] Other rebel groups are reported to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or homemade mines.[13]

Ambassador Chowdhury has stated, “We are painfully aware that the non-state actors are responsible for a sizeable proportion of landmines currently deployed.... Our greatest challenge remains how to bring them into the fold of the Treaty through moral persuasion.”[14]

Landmine Problem

Landmines are found along the long border with Burma in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), which is a hilly area running for 208 kilometers. Border pillars from No. 31 to No. 73 mark this area. Of these pillars nine are displaced and ten are missing (possibly taken by Myanmar forces to facilitate mine-laying inside Bangladesh territory). Border tentacles of three countries -- CHT of Bangladesh, Mizoram of India and Arakan and Chin state of Burma -- meet near pillar No. 73. This mine-affected area has become a quarter for rebels and smugglers.

Almost all the villages close to the border area that are mine-affected are located in Ukhia and Ramu sub-districts of the Cox’s Bazar District and in Naikongchary and Alikadam sub-districts of Bandarban District. Poor people of these areas depend on forest resources for their living. They collect bamboo and cut wood from the hills to sell in the local markets. Local community leaders and BDR personnel have asked wood and bamboo cutters not to go to the hills until the mines are removed. But they added, “We know that all these people are poor and are now jobless. The reality is that, being driven by starvation, they will go to the hills again.”[15]

Mine Clearance

The Bangladesh Army has several battalions with mine clearing capabilities. Bangladesh soldiers have cleared mines in Kuwait, Cambodia and on UN peacekeeping operations, as well as inside Bangladesh. One Bangladeshi battalion is engaged in mine clearance in Kuwait under the Kuwaiti Engineering Corps.[16] In November 2000, Bangladesh Rifles lifted three antipersonnel mines near pillar No. 48, including two Chinese Type 58 mines and one Chinese Type 59 mine. The Ammunition Technical Department of the Bangladesh Army destroyed these mines on 30 January 2001.[17] Bangladesh has neither received nor provided any mine action funding.

Bangladesh repeatedly requested Myanmar authorities to survey and assess the minefields on the border area, with little positive response. Border security officials of Bangladesh and Myanmar met several times between November 2000 and January 2001 in Teknaf, Bangladesh, and in Mangdhaw, Myanmar. In the meeting held at Maungdaw on 30 November 2000, the Director of Myamar’s NaSaKa said, “It is our responsibility to clear the mines. But we did not plant them. Anyhow we will carry out demining according to our own arrangement as much as we can if we find any mines.”[18]

Mine Awareness

The government of Bangladesh has provided no formal mine awareness education. However, in the past year, for the first time BDR officials have asked community leaders of mine-affected areas to warn villagers about the danger of mines and to keep villagers from collecting wood and bamboo in those areas. BDR has also warned villagers that the police would arrest anybody who tried to go to mine-affected areas in the hills. BDR officials believe this resulted in a lower number of casualties than otherwise would have been the case.[19]

One community leader and one Imam of a local mosque in the border area told Landmine Monitor, “During the market day we warn the people to be careful about mines. During each prayer time we announce that there are mines along the border area and ask people not to go to the hills.”[20] Local journalists have written about the dangers of mines in the local and national newspapers, but these newspapers rarely reach the people from affected areas, many of whom are illiterate.

Landmine Casualties

In the period January to December 2000, eight people were killed and three injured in landmine incidents.[21] The victims included both Bangladesh nationals and Burmese Rohingya ethnic minorities. All of the victims were woodcutters, with the exception of one Rohingya day laborer, and a suspected member of a rebel group from Burma. Between January and March 2001, two landmine incidents killed one and injured three others. It is likely that many more landmine incidents have gone unreported.

Local villagers told Landmine Monitor that animals, including tigers, wild pigs, and elephants, are killed and injured frequently by mines in the border area. There is a report of two wild elephants wounded by landmines that NaSaKa drove inside their territory and shot to collect the tusks.[22]

Survivor Assistance

Assistance for mine victims remains scarce and is not part of national policy or humanitarian programs.[23] It appears that the government extends assistance to the victims of bombing incidents but not to those of landmines.[24] It seems that this situation is not caused by discrimination but rather because of lack of knowledge of mine victims. BDR officials stated that they are ready to extend primary aid and other necessary care to landmine victims but that landmine incidents often go unreported.[25] Although hundreds of NGOs work in Bangladesh, none have any programs for landmine victims.

There is an orthopedic hospital in Dhaka, and a hospital for disabled children. All government medical college hospitals have orthopedic departments. But, the mine-affected areas are hilly without adequate medical facilities or means for rapid transfer of victims to well-equipped medical centers. Of the casualties in 2000, seven died on their way to the hospital. In one incident, it took forty hours to arrange money and transport to medical facilities for a victim. In another incident, the Landmine Monitor researcher was called upon to transport a landmine victim to the Memorial Christian Hospital, about 45 kilometers away. The time between the accident and arriving at the hospital was 11 hours. The victim survived but his right leg had to be amputated below the knee.

In 2000, the government of Bangladesh adopted a new disability law. However, there is no mention of landmine victim assistance. The law has not yet been implemented.

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[1] Statement of H.E. Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Ambassador to UN, at the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 9 September 2000.
[2] Telephone interview with Ms. Saida Muna Tasneem, Assistant Secretary, United Nations Human Rights Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka, 19 December 2000.
[3] Statement by H.E. Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Ambassador to UN, at the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to CCW Amended Protocol II, Geneva, 12 December 2000.
[4] Interview with Saida Muna Tasmeen, Assistant Secretary, UN Human Rights Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka, 22 January 2000 and interview with Col. Mohamed Wali Ullah, Bangladesh Rifles, Chittagong, 30 November 1999.
[5] Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh visited two Bangladesh Armed Forces arms exhibitions, 26-31 March 2001. He saw antipersonnel mines and discussed the stockpile with military officials.
[6] During the military exhibition, Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh talked to the concerned army personnel at Cox’s Bazar on 29 March 2001 and at Chittagong on 30 March 2001.
[7] Interview with BDR officials, Naikongchary, 18 December 2000.
[8] Interview with cross-border traders, at Walidaung border area, Naikongchari, Banderban, on 26 December 2000. For more information see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 446.
[9] Interview with Major Mazaharul Islam, second in command of BDR, Naikongchari, Bandarban, 18 December 2000.
[10] Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh saw such antipersonnel mines and took a photograph, BDR station, Naikongchari, Banderban, 18 December 2000.
[11] Interview with BDR battalion commander, Naikongchari, 18 December 2000; The Daily Star, 16, 27, and 30 November 2000; Mizzima News Group, Dhaka, 22 October 2000.
[12] Interview with the army officials who had been working in CHT during the conflict, Chittagong, 30-31 March 2001; Interviews during military exhibition, Cox’s Bazar, 28-29 March 2001, and Chittagong, 30-31 March 2001. For denial, see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 446.
[13] Interview with leaders of Marxist and Maoist groups, Dhaka, 7 and 10 November 2000; Interview with Marxist militant, Chittagong, 18 February 2000; and Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh interview with Maoist militant, Dhaka, 20 February 2000.
[14] Statement of H.E. Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Ambassador to UN, at the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 9 September 2000.
[15] Interview with Mohammed Iqbal, former chairman of Naikongchari sub-district, Naikongchari, 12 December 2000.
[16] Interview with Col. Shah Jahan, Army Engineering Corp, Cox’s Bazar, 30 April 2001. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 447.
[17] Interview with Col. Rafiqul Hannan, Battalion commander of BDR, Naikongchari, 6 March 2001.
[18] Official record of the meetings held between officials of the border security forces of the two countries on the landmine issue, Naikongchari battalion office. Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh interview with Col. Mohammed Sawkat, Sector Commander of BDR, Chittagong, 7 March 2001.
[19] Interview with Major Mazaharul Islam, Second in Command of BDR, Naikongchary, 12 December 2000.
[20] Interview with Chairman of local council of Gundum, Ukhia, 19 November 2000; Interview with the Imam of Jaroliachari mosque, Naikongchari, 9 December 2000.
[21] Data collected by Landmine Monitor from BDR officials, newspapers and news reporters, local community leaders, villagers and personal sources and by interviews with the survivors and members of the families of the victims.
[22] Interview with Major Mazaharul Islam, Second in Command BDR, Naikongchari, 25 December 2000 and interview with villagers and community elders of the village near border area.
[23] For further detail see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p 448.
[24] “Udichi Tragedy: Four Survivors Waiting for Artificial Leg,” The Protham Alo (Bengali newspaper), 8 July 1999; Interview with Syed Hasan Imam, president of UDICHI, Dhaka, 28 February 2001.
[25] Interview with Col. Mohammad Sawkat, sector commander of BDR, Chittagong, 7 March 2001.