Fortify Rights on Thursday said the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups should end the use of landmines and the government of Myanmar should lift restrictions on humanitarian aid groups providing life-saving support to landmine survivors in ethnic areas affected by the ongoing war.
Since January 1, 2020, landmine explosions in Myanmar have reportedly killed or injured at least 68 civilians, while longstanding government-imposed restrictions on aid groups coupled with new COVID-19-related restrictions hinder access to essential aid and services.
“Myanmar is one of the world’s most landmine-affected countries and every casualty is one too many,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights.
"Humanitarian access was restricted before COVID-19 and it’s worse now. The government should immediately ensure humanitarian groups, especially community-based groups, are able to reach all casualties and survivors of landmines.”
Fortify Rights spoke with 10 organisations, including six local-led humanitarian groups, working to address landmine casualties in conflict zones in Kachin and northern Shan states, all of whom report a near total halt to their regular activities. Landmines killed or injured at least 26 civilians in Kachin and northern Shan states this year.
“There was a mine explosion in Moemeik [in Mongmit Township, Shan State], and we couldn’t help the person for two reasons,” Lwar Hlar Reang the General-Secretary of Ta’ang Student and Youth Union (TSYU) based in Lashio, northern Shan State, told Fortify Rights.
“The first is the military prevents people from coming and seeing that person . . . The second reason is that it is difficult for us to travel right now because of the coronavirus.”
TSYU is a civil society organisation that provides essential assistance to survivors of landmine explosions.
Describing their work, Lwar Hlar Reang said: “Some [landmine survivors] need transportation in order to get to the hospital, some people need medical help and are in need of an operation. We provide transportation and clothes for the operation.”
“Coronavirus affects all our projects at the moment,” Lwar Hlar Reang added. “It’s really difficult because there’re mine victims and communities of people who are affected by mine explosions and we can’t go to them directly . . . It’s difficult because we cannot travel to the community right now.”
The Ta’ang Women Organization (TWO) in northern Shan State is another civil society organisation providing assistance to survivors of landmine explosions.
“We cannot reach out to these victims [of landmine explosions] because currently most of our field workers cannot travel because of COVID-19, and another reason is security because in northern Shan State the military sends troops in this region,” said Moon Nay Li, the former General Secretary the Kachin Women Association Thailand (KWAT), another civil society organisation working with communities in Kachin and northern Shan states.
“So, that’s why our workers find it very difficult to travel from one place to another.”
Myanmar urged to ban landmines, lift travel restrictions on Aid Groups
COVID-19, longstanding restrictions on humanitarian aid hamper landmine-survivor support