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Country Reports
BURMA (MYANMAR)1, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: Myanmar government forces and at least eleven ethnic armed groups continue to lay antipersonnel mines in significant numbers. The governments of Bangladesh and Thailand both protested use of mines by Myanmar forces inside their respective countries. In a disturbing new development, mine use is alleged to be taking place under the direction of loggers and narcotics traffickers, as well as by government and rebel forces.

Burmese Translation of the report (PDF File).

Mine Ban Policy

The military government of Myanmar, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. After voting in favor of the 1996 UN General Assembly resolution calling on governments to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning antipersonnel landmines, it has since abstained from every UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Mine Ban Treaty, including in November 2000. Myanmar has not participated in any mine ban meetings since 1999.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling—Government

The Myanmar Defense Products Industries (Kahpasa) produce the MM1 stake mine, the MM2 blast mine, and a directional fragmentation (Claymore-type) mine.[2] The directional mine is alleged by residents of Chin State to be rigged with tripwires for victim activation.[3] There is no evidence that the government has exported antipersonnel mines to other countries. Several types of antipersonnel mines from other countries continue to be found in the field indicating past, if not current, importation. These include Chinese, Israeli, Italian, Russian, US, and other unidentified antipersonnel mines.[4] Neither the SPDC, nor the Ministry of Defense, has released any statistics regarding the size and type of mines in stockpile.


Government officials acknowledge that Myanmar uses antipersonnel mines, but claim it does not do so in an indiscriminate fashion.[5] Government forces, both the Tatmadaw and the NaSaKa (border security force), have continued to use antipersonnel mines extensively. Mine use has been reported in many regions of the country, and along the borders with Bangladesh, Thailand, and India. Bangladesh and Thailand have accused Myanmar forces of laying mines across their borders illegally.

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, the border security force of Myanmar. A Bangladesh border security force (BDR) official told Landmine Monitor that use by NaSaKa had increased since October 2000.[6] The BDR captured mines that indicated 2000 as the year of manufacture.[7]

Amid heightening tension over this mine laying operation, and increasing mine accidents in the area, a 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.[8]

Thailand has accused Myanmar forces of laying mines inside Thailand. A simmering border controversy between the two nations escalated in February 2001 over a disputed piece of territory. Myanmar troops and a proxy army of the Wa are both alleged to have planted mines in this territory in the following months. The Thai government has lodged complaints about the mine laying by Myanmar on several occasions.[9]

Porters taken for service by the SPDC on military operations in Karen State report that every platoon carries six to eight landmines (there are a couple of hundred platoons in Karen State at any given time).[10]

Karen, Rakine, and Shan rebels displayed hundreds of captured landmines laid by the Myanmar Army during the year 2000, or which they had captured in stockpiles in SPDC army bases overrun by rebels during operations during the year 2000.[11] Chin refugees have alleged that residents of the Chin State have died in the year 2000 because of mines laid near the India/Burma border, across from Mizoram.[12]

A Burmese military officer held by the insurgents told them that he had instructions to use mines seized from the enemy for deployment near the border with Thailand, in order to mask who laid the landmine.[13] The officer also said that in 1996 when the Burmese Army seized the mine stockpile of opium warlord Khun Sa that these mines were deployed near the border with Thailand.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling—Armed Ethnic Groups

All of the armed groups are believed to be capable of building blast mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Some groups can also manufacture Claymore-type mines.[14] The Chin National Army maintains an arsenal of landmines and a production facility at their base, which also trains a cadre of mine layers.[15] Trade in mine components between combatants is also occurring with one group claiming to have enough explosives for the next 10 years’ mine production needs.[16]

The armed ethnic groups are not known to receive mines from foreign governments. Throughout the 1990s, surplus antipersonnel mines from the Indochinese wars were plentifully available. As of 2001, antipersonnel mines were reported to be more difficult to obtain on the black market, but an increased number of mines were being lifted or captured from SPDC military operations, and then re-deployed.[17]

Use—Ethnic Armed Groups and other Non-State Actors

At least eleven ethnic armed groups are believed to use antipersonnel mines. All of those groups documented to be using antipersonnel landmines in their rebel activity during 2000 are believed to have continued to do so in 2001, including: the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA); the Karenni Army (KA); the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF); Peoples Defense Forces (PDF); Myiek-Dawei United Front (MDUF); Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO); Shan State Army (SSA); Democratic Karen Buddhist Army; God’s Army; and the Chin National Army (CNA).[18]

In addition, the United Wa State Army is using mines. A bounding mine allegedly laid by the United Wa State Army killed six refugees from Shan State seeking asylum in Thailand.[19] The Chin National Army claims to use only command-detonated mines. It has laid mines near its bases in Chin State.[20] The KNLA does not map or mark its minefields. Landmines laid by the KNLA and DKBA in Karen State continue to endanger the lives of villagers, internal refugees and porters.[21] The KNLA is mining the areas around internally displaced settlements in Karen State. In the Tenasserim Division, the Karen National Liberation Army and the Myeik-Dawie United Front rebels use landmines bought from Thai smugglers. They maintain a mine stockpile of US-made M14, M16, and M18 mines, captured Myanmar MM1, MM2 and directional mines, and homemade mines.[22]

In a disturbing new development, mine use is alleged to be taking place under the direction of loggers and narcotics traffickers.[23] Timber concessions opened in the border areas of Karen State south of the Thai town of Mae Sot. These concessions are believed to be held by high military and political authorities in Thailand. Local people, who initially received instruction on mine fabrication under the KNLA, have allegedly been hired by logging sub-contractors to mine the edges of their concessions to prevent encroachment by competitors and access by the public. Allegedly the loggers also supply the explosives and detonators for the construction of these mines. Several people in the employ of these sub-contractors and local residents have become mine victims. Narcotics traffickers in the same area are reportedly securing their routes for the movement of their goods with landmines. Use of mines to protect manufacturing facilities for the illegal production of meta-amphetemine in both Karen and Karenni State has also been alleged.

Landmine Problem

Nine out of fourteen states and divisions in Burma are mine-affected, with a heavy concentration in eastern Burma.[24] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000 for a description of mine-affected areas.

Mines have been laid between all military camps along a cross-state route in upper Karen State from Kyankkyi in the west to Hsawhta on the Salaween River at the Thai border in an attempt to cut passage by insurgents. Refugee passage is now also blocked by this action.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of mines planted in Burma, or the amount of land affected. A November 2000 report indicates that 25 to 30 different types of antipersonnel mines have been used in Burma.[25]

Mine Clearance and Mine Awareness

There are no humanitarian mine clearance operations in Burma. Some ethnic armed groups, and some villagers, have lifted mines in their areas. Rebels in Rakine State have captured mine detection equipment for use in their operations.[26] 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, then re-laid the mines close to a military base.[27]

Atrocity Demining

Tatmadaw units operating in theaters of conflict near Myanmar's border with Thailand have repeatedly been accused of forcing non-Burman ethnic local people to walk in front of Tatmadaw soldiers in areas suspected of mine contamination (see Landmine Monitor Reports 1999 and 2000). In January 2001, villagers from twelve settlements near the Thai/Burma border crossed into Thailand seeking refuge, after having been ordered by a Burmese military commander to clear a jungle area for a bulldozer to make a road. The area was believed to have been heavily mined by the KNLA.[28] During 2000, the Karen Human Rights Group repeatedly documented incidents of atrocity demining.[29] In response to a US Labor Department report on forced labor, the SPDC replied, “The allegation that children are used as human minesweepers and shields is too absurd and ridiculous to dignify a response.”[30]

Landmine Casualties

The number of landmine victims in Burma remains unknown. There is currently no centralized agency collecting statistics on landmine incidents or survivors within Burma. Relying on disparate data, Landmine Monitor Report 2000 estimated that conflict in Burma produced approximately 1,500 mine victims in 1999 alone, including perhaps nearly one civilian landmine amputee per day in Karen State alone. This is, however, only an estimate. There is no reliable way to trace the number of people killed by landmines.

The landmine casualty rate may be increasing. Statistics of landmine victims transported for surgery by Medicins Sans Frontières (recipient of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize) show a modest increase during the year 2000 over the previous two years.[31] The Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand states that it is seeing an increase in mine victims arriving from the Dooplaya district of Karen State.[32]

A preliminary report on a Level One Impact Survey in Thailand contained the following information on the border region: “The majority of the mine threat is across the border in Myanmar where a considerable number of mine accidents are taking place. In the Camps for Displaced persons alone 83 mine victims are recorded and many more are evident from hospital records. 150 accidents have been reported in the last 2 years of a total of 541 victims including previous years. 213 reported danger areas however are recorded on the Thai side of the border.”[33]

At a meeting of the border security forces of Myanmar and Bangladesh in November 2000, both sides admitted that at least seven people from the two countries were killed in the previous two weeks in landmine explosions.[34]

A Karen military officer noted that the areas most heavily mined by the Tatmadaw are not producing many civilian casualties now, because people have fled those areas; when the refugees return home, casualties will increase.[35]

Despite the fact that military mine victims can be seen in border areas of the country, the Ministry of Defense maintains that there are no military victims of landmines.[36] Mine casualty rates among people taken to porter for the military and among the soldiers themselves due to landmines seem to be equal.[37]

Elephants continue to be victimized by landmines laid in Burma, with new fatalities recorded in both 2000 and 2001. A 32-year-old elephant stepped on a landmine in late April in Burma across from Tak Province of Thailand; it died of its wounds in June.[38] A total of 26 elephants are now known to have perished in Bangladesh where no veterinary help for them is available.[39] The most recent casualty was a baby elephant in February 2001.[40] It has been noted that elephants near the heavily mined Bangladesh border have now changed their migration route as a result of the casualties in their herds and are now entering agricultural areas they previously avoided, where they are attacked by farmers.[41] Mines in Burma have also killed buffalo, tigers, wild pigs, and dogs.

Survivor Assistance

Survivor assistance continues to be minimal due to the neglect of the medical system within Myanmar. The World Health Organization significantly downgraded its assessment of the viability of the health care system in Myanmar, ranking the country 190 out of a total of 191 member states in the World Health Report 2000.

Medical practitioners in public hospitals receive a monthly salary of $5.[42] Unless a victim can pay for care at public or private health facilities, no care is available. Access to first aid and surgical care is dependent on the victim's physical distance from health care facilities and the prevailing security situation in the area at the time of the accident. Medical care received prior to surgery is primitive and depends on whether a trained medic and equipment is on hand.[43]

The provision of prosthetic devices through the National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) is completely dependent on the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The NRC receives no funding from the government for outreach to the nation. All patients must reach the Center on their own. There has been no systematic distribution of information through Myanmar's health care system about the existence of the NRC, and the former Director conceded many health practitioners in the country may not even be aware of the Center and its services. The NRC has two branches, one in Rangoon, and a second in Mandalay, each with a maximum capacity of about thirty in-patients per month. The two NRC facilities, and the Ministry of Defense hospital in Mingaladon near Rangoon, are the only facilities in the country currently providing artificial legs. An additional ICRC constructed facility in the Maymyo military hospital is currently not functional. All mine victims who arrive at the NRC to be fitted with a prosthetic are located and transported by a joint ICRC-Myanmar Red Cross program, through periodical missions to Shan, Karen and Karenni States and the Bago Division.

The ICRC reports that amputees were transported from border areas to the prosthetic/orthotic workshops in Mandalay and Yangon. The Ministry of Health with ICRC support runs the workshops.[44] During the year the number of patients increased, and production more than doubled from 1999. Prosthetic/orthotic appliances were provided for 907 amputees, 55% of whom were mine victims.[45]

The NRC provides limited statistics on its patients. Between 1990-1998 it fitted almost 1,400 patients with artificial limbs, of which more than 70% were victims of landmines.[46] Between April-September 1999, the NRC provided services for 157 landmine victims.[47]

No information is available on victim assistance provided by Defense Ministry hospitals, but ICRC statistics indicate military hospitals may be providing more than twice as many prosthetics as the civilian system.[48]

There is one vocational rehabilitation center in Rangoon run by the Ministry of Health. A second facility for the vocational rehabilitation of amputees is being constructed in Rangoon by an international NGO.

An independent, ethnic-based, mobile medical organization named the Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) operates in ethnic resistance areas of Mon, Karen, Karenni and Shan States. These medics offer a variety of primary and emergency services.

Medicins Sans Frontières and AMI, two humanitarian NGOs with operations in refugee camps on the Burma-Thai border, transport mine victims to hospitals in Thailand, where surgery and post operative care costs roughly 20,000 baht (US$455) per person. The Mae Tao clinic also transports to the hospital mine victims who are unable to reach refugee camps, but are proximate to Mae Sot. The clinic can only provide 5000 baht toward surgical expenses, leaving 15,000 still to be found by the victim and their families. They are seeking to develop a special fund to cover more of the cost for mine victims.[49]

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[1] The military junta now controlling the government of the country changed the 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] Interview with David McCracken, Technical Advisor for Mine Action, Thai Mine Action Center, October 1999. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 469 for additional details.
[3] Interview with Chin refugees and CNF mine-layer in New Delhi, October 2000. Also photographic evidence, “Photo Set 2000-B Independent Report by Karen Human Rights Group,” 18 October 2000.
[4] Moser-Puangsuwan & Selth, “Myanmar's Forgotten Minefields,” Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 12, No. 10, October 2000. Also Andrew Selth, “Landmines in Burma: The Military Dimension,” Working Paper No.352, Australian National University Strategic & Defense Studies Center, Canberra, November 2000.
[5] Letter from Ambassador Tin Winn, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, Washington DC, 16 July 1999; Interview with Ye Minn Thein, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yangon, April 2000; Discussion with personnel from the Myanmar Mission to the UN, New York, 23 March 2001.
[6] Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh interview with Major Mazaharul Islam, Naikongchari, Bandarban, 18 December 2000.
[7] Landmine Monitor/Bangladesh saw such antipersonnel mines and took a photograph, BDR station, Naikongchari, Banderban, 18 December 2000.
[8] The Daily Star, 16, 27, and 30 November 2000; Mizzima News Group, Dhaka, 22 October 2000.
[9] Interviews with officials at the Thai Foreign Ministry; Wassana Nanuam, “Wa took hill to protect drug plants,” Bangkok Post, 12 May 2001.
[10] Interview with Committee for Internally Displaced Karen Peoples, Mae Sot, Thailand, 15 April 2001.
[11] Photographic evidence submitted to the Landmine Monitor during 2000. Also report by the Karen Human Rights Group with photographs of captured mines of Burmese manufacture in Karen State.
[12] Interview with Chin National Front members in Delhi, India, October 2000.
[13] Interrogation report from ethnic armed group from January 2000 given to Landmine Monitor in mid-2000.
[14] For more details on production, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 448, and Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 472.
[15] Interview with Chin leader, Delhi, October 2000.
[16] Interview with indigenous military commander, April 2001. He claims to have purchased high explosive for 300 baht (US$7) per kilogram from another combatant commander and states that it costs him roughly $1 to build a landmine.
[17] Interview with Signals Intelligence officer for the Karen National Liberation Army, 8 January 2001; also interview with ethnic military commander, Mae Hong Son, Thailand, 12 April 2001.
[18] Based on numerous interviews with ethnic militias, military officers, refugees, aid workers, governmental authorities and other observers.
[19] Verbal report on the situation of the Shan provided by the Burmese Relief Center of Chiang Mai at the Coordinating Committee Serving Displaced Persons in Thailand monthly meeting in Bangkok 10 August 2000, follow-up details provided by email between the BRC and Landmine Monitor.
[20] Interview with Chin National Front members in Delhi, India, October 2000.
[21] “Karen IDPs Report: The plight of internally displaced Karen in Mu Traw District of Burma,” Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, December 2000 pp9 and 17; ‘Landmines’ Photo Set 2000-B, KHRG paragraph 2, October 2000.
[22] Interview with rebel officer, June 2000; Interview with Karenni officer, Mae Hong Son, 12 April 2001.
[23] These new and disturbing allegations were received from three different sources during interviews in 2001 along the Thai/Burma border. For reasons of safety, the sources must remain anonymous.
[24] The Sagaing Division, previously believed to have a mine problem, has been removed from last year’s list of mine-affected areas.
[25] Andrew Selth, “Landmines in Burma: The Military Dimension,” Working Paper No.352, Australian National University Strategic & Defense Studies Centre, Canberra, November 2000, pp. 26-34. Also Moser-Puangsuwan & Selth, “Myanmar's Forgotten Minefields,” Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 12, No. 10, October 2000, pp. 38-42.
[26] Photographic evidence submitted to the Landmine Monitor during 2000. Also report by the Karen Human Rights Group with photographs of captured mines of Burmese manufacture in Karen State.
[27] Email from a human rights worker to Landmine Monitor, 22 February 2001.
[28] Verbal report by international humanitarian aid worker at monthly refugee assistance coordination meeting, Bangkok, 15 February 2001. Also report “Forced Labor and forced mine clearance by SPDC army in Hlaing Bwe Township, Karen State,” Free Trade Union of Burma, 29 January 2001.
[29] In April 2000, porters were being used to “sweep” for mines by Burmese Army units, Karen Human Rights Group, “Detention, Torture, Shooting and Killings,” 25 April 2000; also use of women and children not strong enough to carry loads as minesweepers in Karen Human Rights Group, “Starving Them Out,” 31 March 2000.
[30] “Rangoon Castigates US over report,” Bangkok Post, 15 March 2000.
[31] Statistics of war injuries transported for surgery by MSF in Tak Province of Thailand between 1998-2000, prepared on request of UNHCR Field Officer.
[32] Interview with Dr. Cynthia Maung of the Mae Tao clinic, Mae Sot, Thailand, 16 April 2001.
[33] NPA/TMAC Impact Survey Final Presentation, Supporting Notes: Guy Rhodes, PhD, Program Manager, NPA, Slide 33. Presentation made 31 May 2001.
[34] “Myanmar to remove mines planted on border COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh,” Daily Star, 30 November 2000.
[35] Interview with Signals Intelligence officer for the Karen National Liberation Army, 8 January 2001.
[36] Interview with health workers, Rangoon, 25 April 2000.
[37] Landmine Monitor does not have access to military records, nor consistent reports of casualties in the field. However, for those events in which Landmine Monitor has managed to obtain casualty figures for both the number of killed and wounded among porters and soldiers for reason of landmine injury there is a striking similarity in the figures. Also “Interview Annex to Convict Porters,” KHRG, 20 December 2000.
[38] “Elephant succumbs to landmine injuries,” Bangkok Post, 6 June 2000.
[39] “Landmines exploded in Bangladesh-Durma border,” Mizzima News Group, 22 October 2000.
[40] “Elephant injured by landmine mourns sudden death of calf,” Bangkok Post, 5 February 2001.
[41] Email from Bangladesh Landmine Monitor researcher.
[42] Interview with WHO official in Yangon, January 2000. Also, “Human Development in Myanmar,” United Nations Working Group, July 1998, p.14.
[43] Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 453-454.
[44] ICRC Annual Report 2000, p. 119.
[45] ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Unit Health and Relief Division, Annual Report 2000, p. 11.
[46] National Rehabilitation Center statistics and interview with Dr. Ye Hliang, Director, NRC, August 1999.
[47] National Rehabilitation Center statistics provided to the Association for Aid and Relief-Japan, December 1999.
[48] The ICRC was providing components for prosthetics to hospitals under the Ministry of Defense in Rangoon and Maymyo. ICRC, “Tables and Graphs 1979-1998”, 8 June 1999. Currently they are awaiting a new proposal to undertake support for the Ministry of Defense hospitals. If figures provided by the ICRC and the NRC are compared, then Ministry of Defense hospitals are providing 2.5 times the prosthetics distributed through the civilian system.
[49] Interview with Dr. Cynthia Maung of the Mae Tao clinic, Mae Sot, Thailand, 16 April 2001.