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Lurking killers lurk in Myanmar's rice paddies - landmines

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/21/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Remainders of six-decade long war still able to kill, maim the unwary

A ceasefire in southeastern Myanmar has failed to roust the deadly remainders of a six-decade long armed conflict. The 2012 agreement between ethnic Karen rebels and the government has yet to address the many remaining deadly landmines still found in the areas rice paddies and tree branches. Many continue to be killed or disabled for life after tangling with this hidden killers.

The 2012 agreement between ethnic Karen rebels and the government has yet to address the many remaining deadly landmines still found in the areas rice paddies and tree branches.

The 2012 agreement between ethnic Karen rebels and the government has yet to address the many remaining deadly landmines still found in the areas rice paddies and tree branches.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/21/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Myanmar, landmines, ceasefire


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "I have seen many people who have been injured by landmines during my work," Mine risk educator Pah Dah says. He's spent the past six years traveling to remote villages in Karen State, providing villagers with the educational tools needed to avoid landmines.

Working for the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, remarks that "In conflict-affected communities there is almost no village without a landmine victim. In some villages, there are up to nine mine victims."

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Laid by ethnic armed groups, the Myanmar army and numerous militias during the struggle for Karen independence landmines remain commonplace along Myanmar's border with Thailand.

"The reality is very, very complex, and the Karen areas are particularly complex in terms of the number of different armed actors operating in those areas as well," Chris Rush, a senior program officer for Myanmar at Geneva Call says. Geneva Call is a non-governmental organization that works to bring non-state armed groups into line with humanitarian standards.

Geneva Calls signed a deed of commitment with the Karen National Union and its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, in which troops pledged to refrain from using child soldiers or sexual violence. The army, however has not signed Geneva Call's third plank calling for a prohibition of landmine use.

Rush added that the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, which was formed from a faction that split from the union in 1994 and sided with the government, has returned to fight alongside the union in 2010. The army has not signed any deeds of commitment with Geneva Call, and also has its own history of landmine usage.

Landmines and other ordinance hinder the ability of villagers to go about their daily routines, Pah Dah says.

"If there is a minefield close to the village, to their farms or on paths, villagers will be afraid to go to their farm, collect firewood, forage for food or tend their cattle," he said. "Villagers depend on these daily activities for their livelihood, so they face difficulties because of mines."

Getting to villages where he can present mine safety information to residents can be dangerous. "There are difficulties accessing some areas because of mines, but it is not impossible," he said. "Sometimes we cross through minefields to get to some villages, and with local knowledge we can access these places."

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