16. Landmines in Burma

"On January 14th, 2002, one Muslim (a cattle trader from Shwe Gun) stepped on a landmine at Taray Poe Kwee village. SPDC and DKBA troops had planted landmines when they arrived at that village tract. Villagers from Taray Poe Kwee managed to send the mine victim back home, but he died on the way at Mae Tha Mu village. On January 31st, 2002, one of Kyaw Wah Hser’s cattle stepped on a land mine and was killed."

(Source: FTUB.)

16.1 Background

Anti-personnel landmines are victim-activated weapons that indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, soldiers, elderly people, women, children and animals. They can cause injury and death long after the end of hostilities. In Asia, Burma is currently second only to Afghanistan in the number of new landmine victims, surpassing even Cambodia. Contrary to trends in the rest of the world, the SPDC has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty and abstained from the 1999 UN General Assembly vote on the treaty. Of Burma’s 14 states and divisions, 9 of them are affected by landmines. Evidence suggests that in Karen State there is one landmine victim everyday. Civilians become landmine victims in two ways: when they are forced by the military to act as human minesweepers (see below); and when they accidentally step on mines planted in areas where civilians reside. More than 14 percent of mine victims in Burma stepped on landmines within half a kilometer from the center of their village.

In efforts to block supply routes for armed ethnic organizations, the SPDC plants mines on supply and escape routes used by villagers and refugees. Villages from which people have fled or have been forcibly relocated from are also mined to prevent the villagers from returning, as well as to block access to food, supplies and intelligence to opposition groups. Landmines have also been planted along streams, paths, roads and passes that are used by civilians, including those fleeing Burma. It is estimated that there is one civilian death for every two military casualties associated with landmines. (Source: Landmine Monitor report-2002.)

16.2 Human Minesweepers

Throughout 2002 some units of the Tatmadaw continued to use villagers as human minesweepers. This specific targeting of civilians is contrary to the claims of the SPDC that landmine use has not been directed against civilian populations. Civilians conscripted for forced portering in conflict areas are sometimes sent ahead of the troops so that they will detonate mines. The Landmine Monitor Report from 2002 notes that: "a newly reported practice demands those taken to porter for the military to manually clear mines without adequate training or tools. A former porter who escaped from Burmese Army service told the Landmine Monitor researcher that he was forced to seek mines using a long sharpened bamboo prod, piercing the ground and removing any found mines by hand." (For more information see list of incidents at the end of this chapter.)

16.3 Situation in Border Areas

The border states and divisions of Burma are the most heavily mined areas in the country, due to the civil war being fought with ethnic groups living in these areas. The border areas already have problems with security and adequate health care, and mine pollution only compounds these problems. The presence of landmines means that ethnic minority people cannot engage in everyday activities, such as farming, gathering food or traveling, without fear of being killed or losing limbs due to landmines. In addition, as previously mentioned, villagers who have been forcibly relocated cannot safely return to their original villages to collect property, food supplies or check on their homes.

It is thought that the majority of people injured by landmines die before they get medical treatment. Mine victims often have limited or no access to healthcare facilities and may have to walk for days to find medical care. Sometimes the security situation can mean that no treatment is available for a long period of time. In some cases, landmine victims have been turned back by the SPDC before they could reach a hospital. The Landmine Monitor reports that: "to go from mine-affected Pa-an district [Karen State] to Mae Sot, Thailand, a distance of 40 kilometers, costs 5,000 Kyats (around US$5) each way, which is more than two months wages for farmers. In some cases, those who could not reach any medical attention try to treat themselves with herbal leaves. Some Burmese migrants to Thailand who are landmine survivors cannot access official assistance offered by international organizations if they are not accepted into an organized refugee camp. Since April 2001, the Mae Tao Clinic in Thailand, which specializes in assisting Burmese migrants, has operated a prosthetics section." (Source: Landmine Monitor Report 2002.)

16.4 Mine Deployment

The 2002 Landmine Monitor Report stated that at least thirteen ethnic armed groups, both pro and anti-SPDC, are believed to use antipersonnel mines. These groups include: Pao People’s Liberation Front (PPLF); All Burma Muslim Union; and Wa National Army; Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO); Chin National Army (CNA); Shan State Army (SSA); United Wa State Army (UWSA); Karenni Army (KA); Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA); Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA); All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF); People’s Defence Forces (PDF); and Myiek-Dawei United Front. (Source: Landmine Monitor report-2002.)

Mines are force multipliers and thus have been used by numerically weak combatants on the defensive throughout history. Usually they are deployed to maximize the advantages of terrain, to deny territory and/or to force an enemy into pre-organized fields of fire. In mountainous, heavily forested territory, such as the Dawna Ranges, along the Thai/Burma border, mines are especially efficient at denying an attacking force access to territory along narrow jungle trails. Currently however, most of the mines used by opposition groups are improvised explosive devises (IEPs) and are usually deployed to defend territory at specific points. They are usually battery operated and incorporate perishable local materials such as bamboo and thus have a finite active life span. "The KNLA states that the mines are necessary to protect internally displaced Karen people (estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands) from attacks by the Burmese Army." (Source: Landmine Monitor Report 2002.)

The mines used by the SPDC Army are usually industrially produced from non-perishable, waterproof materials and remain active indefinitely. Mines from China, Israel, Italy, Russia and the United States have been used in Burma. Burma produces at least three types of antipersonnel mines. The MM1, MM2, which are copies of Chinese mines and "claymore-like" mines such as the MM3. The Indian LTM-76 anti-personnel mine is also still a significant part of the Tatmadaw’s landmine inventory despite its’ age. (Source: Landmine Monitor Report 2002)

Although the SPDC uses mines defensively around military outposts, the majority of mines laid by the Tatmadaw are deployed to achieve an offensive objective and are targeted primarily against the local civilian population. The SPDC throughout 2002 used mines as part of its’ four cuts strategy to cut off intelligence, supplies, recruits, and funds to the opposition armies.

16.5 De-mining

In Burma today, mines are seldom if ever marked and their position is rarely recorded. This presents great problems for any future de-mining effort. At present, villagers are forced to resort to two improvised methods of mine clearance. One is to sacrifice their valuable livestock by running them through a suspect area. The other method is to literally sweep the area with an extremely long handled bamboo rake. To date in Burma, no humanitarian de-mining activities have taken place. Although mine clearance by the SPDC for some commercial ventures is believed to have occurred, no international aid agencies have been permitted to set up programs in mine affected areas. (Source: Landmine Monitor Report 2002.)

16.6 Thailand-Burma Border

In 2002 the Tatmadaw continued laying landmines along its borders with Thailand. As part of a plan to "fence the country," troops in Tenasserim division were ordered to lay mines along the border. (Source: Landmine Monitor report-2002.) Mines have also 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, as part of an attempt to cut off the travel routes of insurgents. However, these mines have also effectively blocked refugees from using these routes to seek asylum in Thailand.

The Landmine monitor reports that: "DKBA combatants also alleged that they purchased mines and components from Thai businessmen who operate logging concessions in DKBA-controlled areas close to Myawaddy. The DKBA also controls a timber concession area by surrounding it with antipersonnel mines. Thai businessmen obtain permission to cut the forest from the DKBA, and the DKBA place mines to deter attacks upon their revenue base by the rival KNU, while simultaneously preventing the businessmen from unilaterally enlarging their concession area." (Source: Landmine Monitor Report 2002.)

In Karenni State, mines are allegedly laid in paddy fields which forces villagers to grow opium instead. Mines are also used by drug-traffickers to protect methamphetamine manufacturing factories, specifically in Shan State at Namsan and Hsi Hseng. The Shan State Army [South] reportedly mined areas around its bases straddling the border between Thailand and Burma. (Source: Landmine Monitor Report 2002.)

16.7 Bangladesh-Burma Border

The Bangladesh-Burma border, with 270 kilometers comprised of dense forests, hills and 60 kilometers of sea, is the longest minefield in the country. Mines have been laid on this border since the 1991 mass exodus of 250,000 Rohingya Muslims from Arakan State. The SPDC has said that the minefields are necessary to stop cross-border movement by armed ethnic opposition groups. However they also prevent or make it extremely dangerous for refugees to cross the border and impede cross-border economic activities. There were reports that the Na Sa Ka (village militia) has continued laying mines along this border in 2002.

16.8 Landmines – partial list of incidents 2002

Shan State

On the morning of 25 January 2002, at about 8:30 am, 2 mine victims died in the Ho Murng area just near the Thai border opposite Mae Hong Son province.They were:

(1) Nang Ing, female, age 22, daughter of Loong Htun of Wan Pat Yen village, Laikha township, and

(2) Sai Ku, male, age 19, son of Loong Artiya of, Laikha township, central Shan State.

The villagers were trying to enter Thailand in order to find a job. Since 13th January 2002, Thai check points along the border refused to allow people who could not show their identity cards to enter the country. Thus in order to avoid check points, Nang Ing and Sai Ku had to followed a jungle track, where they stepped on land mines. (Source: Freedom)

Karen State

Nyaung-lay-bin District

On 2 June 2002, Paw-pi-doe villager, Mang Kyi stepped on a land mine planted by SPDC troops at Po-deh and was severely wounded. (Source: KIC)

On 3 June 2002 Noh-nya-la villager, Maung Day stepped on a land mine planted by SPDC troops and was severely wounded. (Source: KIC)

On 3 July 2002, Kwe-lay-kho villager Saw Tu Tu was killed on the spot by a landmine planted by troops from SPDC LIB-92, Column-2 led by Bo Min Thein. (Source: KIC)

Pa-pun District

On 4 July 2002, Naw Nge (F,18) from Oo-pu-tu village, Hlaing-bwe Township, was wounded by a land mine planted by DKBA 999 Ka Ba Min (aka) Lweh Ka Paw. Naw Nge lost one of her legs when she steppen on a landmine while walking to the field hut to get a basket she had hidden and collect buffaloes she had left grazing, after the departure of DKBA troops. (Source: KIC)

On 23 October, 2002 troops from SPDC Tactical Command 3, LIB 1, column 2, led by battalion second in command, Kyaw Shwe came to Bwa-doe area, Bu-tho township and planted land mines which killed a villager and a buffalo. (Source: KIC)

On 10 November 2002, Kyaw Myint Than, commander of SPDC IB 98, of South West Command summoned the village heads of Noh-lah, Htee-saw-meh, Pway-htaw-roe, Noh-gaw, Po-khay, Bler-per, Thwa-kho-lor, Ma-htaw, Khaw-kla and Ta-dwee-kho villages and instructed them to have each of the villages build a hut along the bank of Yun-za-lin river and to send two villagers from each village to stand sentinel, both day and night, for security of the motor road from Htee-saw-meh to Koo-seik villages. He also instructed them to get a bullock cart, fully loaded with logs, to drive back and forth on the road for clearance of land mines, every morning. (Source: KIC)

On 12 November 2002, Company commander Aung Than of SPDC IB 98 ordered Thwa-kho-lor village head and villagers to search and clear land mines on the motor roads from 7 am to 10 am, each day, using 10 villagers with two hoes. (Source: KIC)

Doo-pla-ya District

On 27 December 2001 at 9:40 am, Htee-moo-ta villager Saw Yin Aye (M, 28) of Kaw-ka-reik Township, lost a leg to a land mine planted by SPDC controlled DKBA Battalion 907. He did not get any compensation or treatment. (Source: KIC)

On 7 February 2002, Htee-moo-ta villager, Pah Tweh Htee (M,48), stepped on a landmine planted by DKBA near his farm hut and died immediately. (Source: KIC)

On 18 February 2002, at 4:00 am, Noh-po villager Maung Soe Myint, (M, 25) son of Saw Maung Heh, was seriously wounded by a DKBA landmine, at the foot of the hill to the east of Noh-po village, Kaw-ka-reik township. (Source: KIC)

Toungoo District

From the beginning of January 2002 up to now, the SPDC Southern Military Commander, Aung Min and No. 1 Operation Commander Soe Thein ordered battalions IB 39 and IB 53, to seize villagers from Kaw-soe-ko, Ler-ko, Wah-tho-ko, Baw-ga-li and the other villages near the motor road. These troops forced the villagers to cut bushes, dig earth and clear landmines, for a distance of 2 yards, on both sides of Kaw-thay-doe and Bu-hsa-khee motor road. Any family, which could not give labor, had to pay 10,000 Kyat. (Source: KIC)

On 3 January 2002, four cattle were killed by landmines, as the SPDC troops chased villagers they wanted to round up for forced labour in Baw-ga-li area of Tah-da-bin Township. (Source: KIC)

On 1 March 2002, a column of SPDC IB 264, led by battalion second in command Min Thaw took Ga-mu-doe villager, Saw Ah Khee from the west of Ka-law-wa area, with the column. Saw Ah Khee stepped on a landmine and lost his leg. (Source: KIC)

On 5 March 2002, troops from SPDC IB 53, led by battalion commander Thu Rein Naing, came to Hsaw-wa-doe village and planted landmines. Hsaw-wa-doe village Saw Pu Doo Lu, M-35, son of Saw Hsa Po, who had been arrested by these troops was released on 6 March 2002, and on his return home he stepped on one of the landmines and lost his right leg. (Source: KIC)

On 6 March 2002, troops from SPDC IB 53, led by second in command Kyaw San and Bo Tin Maung Win planted landmines near Kaw-Thay-doe village. Kaw-thay-doe villager Saw Poo Loo Lu, M-35, stepped on land and lost his right leg. (Source: KIC)

On 22 March 2002, troops from SPDC IB 264 planted landmines on the road of Baw-ga-li village and Maw-ko-doe villagers Saw Aung Pay Htoo (M, 40) son of Saw Ka Baw and Saw Hser Wah (M, 14) son of Saw Chit Maung stepped down a landmine and died on the spot. (Source: KIC)

On 2 April 2002, troops from SPDC IB 30, led by Lieutenant Colonel Ko Ko planted land mines, on foot paths. At 11:46am Naw La Lu aged 25, from Kaw-thay-doe village, daughter of Saw Neh Neh was killed by one of the land mines, while Naw Heh Kree, daughter of Saw Htoo Pwe was severely wounded. (Source: KIC)

In April 2002, SPDC IB 39 battalion commander Win Soe, ordered villagers in Baw-ga-li area to clear the Pet-let-wa-Kaw-thay-doe motor road. Troops from SPDC IB 26, led by battalion commander Khin Maung Cho forced Leik-tho villagers to clear to a distance of 150 yards around the electric pylons and also planted land mines close to the foot of these electric pylon. On 5 April 2002, at 4:15 pm, Saw Than Myint aged 52 of Leik-tho village, son of Saw Thein Maung was seriously wounded by one of the land mines. (Source: KIC)

In April troops from SPDC No. 3 Tactical Command, led by commander Thet Oo ordered Baw-ga-li villagers to make 500 home-made land mine switches and ordered the cease-fire group to plant land mines one foot paths and in plantations. As a result, it had become a serious problem for the villagers to go out and find vegetable or work on their farms and plantations. (Source: KIC)

On 14 April 2002, Thet Oo, commander of No. 3 Local Operation Command, under SPDC Southern Command, seized Baw-ga-li villagers:

(1) Saw Kwe Htoo, son of Saw Maung Kri,

(2) Saw Hso Soe Gyi, son of Saw Pah Ta,

(3) Saw Kwe Kaw, son of Saw Maung Kyaw,

(4) Saw The Nay, son of Saw Maung Po,

(5) Saw Ko Thlee, son of Saw Kwa Htoo and

(6) Saw Ta Ta, son of Naw Htaw Lay

and sent them to Tha-aye-hta to go in front of the bulldozer as human mine detectors. (Source: KIC)

On 25 April 2002, Za-yat-gyi-nor-ka-la villager Saw Maung (M, 27) son of Ka Lagyi and Daw Ma Oh stepped on a land mine between Hti-lo and Tha-pa-kyaw, planted by the SPDC troops and died on the spot while his brother Saw La Pay (M, 25) was severely wounded. (Source: KIC)

On 26 April 2002, Mau-thay-doe villager Saw Kee-ku-htoo (M, 16), son of Saw Klo Toe stepped on a land mine planted by SPDC IB 264 troops at Klay-klo-ni and died on the spot. (Source: KIC)

On December 3 2002, troops from SPDC LIB 351 planted hundreds of landmines on the footpaths in Maw-nay-pwa area. (Source: KIC)

Pa-an District

On 24 December 2001, combined troops of an SPDC army unit led by column commander Tin Win and DKBA Brigade 999 led by Moe Joe, totaling about 100 troops, demanded 30,000 Kyat from Lo-baw village, 30,000 Kyat from Mae-plet-wah-khee village and 30,000 kyat from Day-law-pya village. These troops also looted 78 chickens, 7 goats, 4 pigs, 21 tins of rice and 6 Pyi of chili, and planted 40 landmines in Mae-plet-wah-khee area. On 26 December 2001 these troops burned down Mae-plet-wah-khee village and looted from Day-law-pya villagers 20 chickens, one goat and one pig. (Source: KIC)

On 1 July 2002, combined troops from SPDC LIB 205 column 2 led by major Kyaw Naing and DKBA 999 troops led by brigade second in command Kya In burned down the village of Ka-law-lu. As troops led by DKBA Ko Win and Bo Lweh Ka Paw from the combined troops planted land mines on hill ridges, near forest edges and the paddy field huts, said to be on the order of General Pah Nwee, the villagers had to stop working on their paddy fields. On that day, these troops fired heavy weapons at the hill paddy fields saying that the Karen resistance groups could hide in those places, making the villagers flee. (Source: KIC)

On 2 July 2002, combined Troops from SPDC LIB 205 column 2 led by Major Kyaw Naing and DKBA 999 troops led by Brigade second in command Kya In burnt down the village of Si-pah-day-khee. Later they planted land mines inside and outside of the village and around the paddy fields to discourage the villagers from going back and staying. Currently, there are eight villages, whose residents have been prohibited from working on their paddy fields. (Source: KIC)

On 4 July 2002, Naw Nge (F,18) from Oo-pu-tu village, Hlaing-bwe Township, was wounded by a land mine planted by DKBA 999 Ka Ba Min (aka) Lweh Ka Paw and lost one of her legs while she was going to the field hut after the departure of DKBA troops to get back her basket she had hidden and collect the buffaloes she had left grazing. (Source: KIC)

Mergui-Tavoy Division

On 10 May 2002, Maung Win Mying 25, son of U Sa Lay, of Zee village, Ye-buy Township, a cattle trader, stepped on a land mine planted by SPDC LIB 103, at Myin-kwa-nyo place in the Thai territory, and died on the spot. (Source: KIC)

Karenni State

On 12 August 2002, at 9:50 am, a Pswadoh villager named Tarmaw Mee, 48, was out looking for vegetables. He stepped on a landmine planted by Burmese troops from LIB No. 428. He died near Mawchi-Taungoo car road. After a friend of his informed his family, his wife Naw Nae Neh, accompanied by four villagers, went to look for his body the following morning and found it at 11:30. When they moved his dead body, another landmine exploded. The explosion seriously wounded two and left three others slightly injured. (Source: KNAHR)

On 14 September 2002, at 9:15am, a Hosakee villager, Saw Tarpae Leh (son of Saw Ne Hsei and Naw Marli), age 20, stepped on a landmine on the Mawchi-Taungoo road at Leh Laeper Point No. 78. The landmine had been laid by Burmese troops from LIB No. 307. (Source: KNAHR)

On 15 September 2002, a group of Pwadoh villagers were ordered by the Burmese commander from LIB No. 302 and 307 to work on the Mawchi-Taungoo Road. Tarmaw Pae, 35, stepped on a landmine that had been laid by the Burmese troops. Saw Thatu Meh, 30, lost his left leg, Saw Thar Paw, 35, was wounded in his right leg, Saw Lekee, 28, was hit in a left rib, both Saw Kaw Ba, 20, and Saw Tudu, 18, were wounded in the face. Tarmaw Pae’s wife, who was 5 months pregnant, was wounded in the groin and calf and Naw Eh Paw was killed. (Source: KNAHR)

16.9 Interviews

Names:           Three male and two female villagers aged 22 to 78 years

Residence:      Mae Tha Mu tract, Haling Bwe Township, Pa-an district, Karen State

Occupation:    Farmers

Nationality:     Karen

Religion:         Buddhist, Christian

(Source: FTUB)

On October 19th, 2002, a large army of about 400 SPDC troops, arrived with DKBA guides at our village. They demanded our village, Mae Tha Mu village, to select 45 male villagers to work as porters. The huge column then patrolled Ka Mar Hta, Kyaw Ta Lay Kho, Taray Poe Kwee, Htee Ta Blu Hta, Daw Ka Kyar, Mae Taw Khee, Paw Baw Khee, Wa Mee Klah, Haw Thoo Khee, Htee Par Rah and Htee Mu Khee villages collecting other villager porters, as well as 10 prisoners who wore blue shirts and sarongs. We were not allowed to talk each other during the trip, so, we did not know each others’ names. The loads we had to carry were of shells/munitions, rice, pots, and other foodstuffs. Each load was between 15 to 20 viss1. The troops ordered us to walk in front of the column as they were afraid of being ambushed.

Unfortunately, a porter from Wa Mee Klah village stepped on a landmine on October 20th, 2002, and the ball of his foot was injured. A DKBA soldier took a machete and cut off the leg from the calf down. He was then sent to the Myaing Gyi Ngu to be treated. His wound had not healed when he came back to his village, so he later went to a refugee camp in Thailand to get proper treatment. Along the same journey, two other villager porters stepped on landmines and both of them were immediately killed.

At that time the weather was still cold, and villagers hadn’t brought their blankets with them. We had to follow the troops for one and a half months until December 2002, when we were released. At that time, the harvest season was almost over, and villager porters had by then lost some of their crops.

The three land mine victims are-

1 .Par Ngar 30 ys amputee 4 Children

2. Par Dee Doh 40 ys died 5 Children

3. Par Ngeh 25 ys died single

(Source: FTUB.)

From FTUB Htee Moo Hta area, Thingan Nyinaung, Karen State, Situation Report:

"Compared with previous years, our villages have suffered the most since November 2001. There were many landmines (around 1,000 landmines) laid by SPDC and DKBA soldiers at this time, the harvest period of the year. Because of a landmine, a monk who was invited for a Buddhist ceremony from another village was killed. A female villager (a former teacher) was killed by a landmine planted on her rice field. The last land mine victim was Pah Shwe Htee (48 years) from Htee Moo Hta. He stepped on a landmine on 7th February, 2002 and died. Landmines killed villagers’ livestock too.

Later, Karen guerrillas arrived around our village and assisted to clear the landmines but they could not find all the mines. The SPDC and DKBA not only brought landmines to our village but also yar mar (Methamphetamine) when they started stationed in November. They have been selling villagers at a cheap price2 or exchanging with the harvest."

A villager interviewed by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported:

"On 2nd March, the SPDC troops came to my home village in Karen State, just a few hours walk from the Thai border. The villagers tried to escape to the forest, taking with them what they could. When the troops arrived, they caught the chicken, killed the pigs and burned down some houses. They also destroyed the rice stocks.

"One villager was killed and two others maimed by the landmines planted by the soldiers. Three other villagers were forced to work as army porters, to walk ahead of the troops in the front line." (Source: CSW 8-5-2002)

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