Myanmar marks mine awareness day with $6m pledge and 30-year demining goal

By: Logan Connor - Posted on: April 5, 2017 | Featured

Myanmar has the third-highest casualty rate for landmines in the world, behind only Colombia and Afghanistan, according to a 2013 report

Myanmar volunteers who lost their legs after stepping on landmines make prosthetic legs at the Mae Tao clinic, a rehabilitation centre at the Thai-Myanmar border city of Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand
Myanmar volunteers who lost their legs after stepping on landmines make prosthetic legs at the Mae Tao clinic, a rehabilitation centre at the Thai-Myanmar border city of Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand. Photo: EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

The Myanmar government announced Tuesday that it would spend $6m on eradicating mines and unexploded ordnance in the country, a goal that an NGO estimated would take up to 30 years.

Speaking at an event in Yangon marking the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Thant Zin, chairman of a top demining body in the country, said Myanmar was still plagued by landmines resulting from years of civil war.

“Countries like Myanmar will need about 30 years to [eradicate landmines] because the situation about landmines is too bad in Myanmar,” said Thant Zin, chairman of the Humanitarian Mine Action Initiative (Myanmar).

“Landmines are scattered in the country and we don’t know the place. Landmines were laid without discipline, so we don’t know the places where landmines are located.”

The chairman said the landmine clearance process needed to begin with a Land Technical Survey of mined areas.

“And then we can get rid of the landmines. So, only if we can do it for about 30 years, Myanmar will become a landmine-free country,” he said.

At a separate ceremony for the mine awareness day held in the capital city Naypyitaw, the government pledged $6m towards the eradication of landmines in several states along the eastern border—Shan, Kachin and Kayin— and Taninthayi Region, as well as landmine education, assistance for victims and data collection.

According to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement, which will carry out the landmine eradication efforts, 298 people in Myanmar were injured or killed by landmines in 2015 and 2016. Additional ministry figures paint a harrowing picture: one person is harmed by a landmine approximately every three days, one in four victims are killed by landmines and one in three victims are children.

The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor ranks the country third after Afghanistan and Colombia for highest landmine casualty rates across the globe.