“I passed out after the explosion and I didn’t know how long I was unconscious. After I woke up, I still felt dizzy. My sister was next to me and she was still unconscious, and I awake – she was covered in a lot of blood,” Nang Mo Khao recounted the day she stepped on the landmine.
The two sisters were shocked and feared the mine explosion as no such incident had happened in Lawksawk township in southern Shan state in the past.
On the day of the incident, the younger sister, who lives in Nong Woe village, Kyauk Gu tract, Lawksauk township, went to pick up her older sister who lives in Pan Hai village, and they walked on the mine. coming back. They were unconscious and seriously injured.
The location where the landmine exploded was around the area where the Northern Alliance forces and the Shan State Restoration Council (RCSS/SSA) had an intense firefight.
During the clash, in addition to artillery fire and artillery fire, landmines were also installed. After the fight, landmines put residents’ lives at risk.
“It happened shortly after the clash. In the past, we have traveled this route without any problems. I did not know that they would plant landmines. So, I used the same route as from usual – it was not a problem on the way, but it exploded on the way back,” Nang Kyar U, the landmine victim, told SHAN.
The two sisters, Nang Kyar U and Nang Mo Khao, were driving a motorbike between Nong Woe village and Kone Thar village, Lawksauk township, when they stepped on the anti-personnel mine laid by the armed forces.
Although clashes have taken place in this area, the villagers are not informed to avoid using the risky roads after the clashes.
Due to the mine explosion, Nang Mo Khao injured her hips and waist, and her younger sister Nang Kyar U suffered other injuries – her hips and upper right thigh to the knee were badly damaged by the explosion.
In February 2022, in addition to the damage caused by the landmine explosion, residents’ houses and monasteries were also damaged due to heavy weapon fighting between armed groups in Kyauk Gu village, township of Lawksuak.
The locals have never seen armed conflicts in the areas and they were shocked to see such armed fights happening.
“I’m really scared because I’ve never seen such clashes since I was born. I’m now 28 and I’ve never experienced such shootings. I was so scared that I stayed at home. me and hid quietly. I didn’t dare look outside – too shocked to do so,” said Sai Aung, who hid quietly at home when the clashes took place.
Towards the end of February 2022, another motorcycle trader stepped on another landmine around the area where the two sisters suffered the explosion.
Additionally, Sai Kham, a 27-year-old youth leader, who lives in Pan Khar village, Kyuak Gu tract was killed on the spot by a landmine explosion in March 2022.
Residents have never heard of armed conflicts and landmine explosions in Lawksuak Township in the past; however, this has been a concern from early 2022.
Clashes also took place in Kesi (Kyethi) and Mongkung townships from June 2021, and some residents were killed and injured by landmines in these areas.
Due to clashes by armed groups, Mongkung residents are worried about the danger of landmines left behind by them, and it would affect travel routes and daily activities.
“When it happened, all the armed groups denied that it was not them. There is no compensation for losses due to landmines. There are people in the hospital because they step on landmines these days. Those who laid the landmines might already forget their location because those who have never been to the jungle sometimes get lost,” a resident of Mongkung told SHAN anonymously due to security concerns.
Since June 2021, there have been numerous firefights between ethnic armed groups along Loi Hun Mountain and at least two residents have stepped on landmines and injured themselves.
Clashes have not been reduced; instead, they expanded into Mongkung Township. At least four residents were killed and seven were seriously injured by landmines in the Mongkung township area.
There are inaccessible areas where residents are affected by landmines, but data could not be collected.
Due to occasional landmine explosions and injuries, locals are asking armed groups to come and clear these landmines.
“Farming is difficult now because people are afraid to go to their farms. Currently, government electricity is cut off every day and firewood cannot be collected due to fear of landmines. So whatever armed groups laid these landmines, please come and clean them up,” a man who lives in Pang Kay Thu, Mongkung Township, told SHAN anonymously.
Regarding the landmines planted by the ethnic armed groups during their clashes and if they have a plan for the civilians, SHAN contacted the Spokesperson of the Shan State Restoration Council (RCSS/SSA) , Major Kham Sam: “Regarding the issue of landmines, we are doing it now. don’t know yet. It is linked to the military operation. We don’t know the details. Therefore, I have no comment on the current landmine problem,” the spokesperson replied.
Major Kham Sam used to talk about landmines at SHAN late last year saying that when it comes to landmines, we cannot look at one side only. We must inspect the location of the explosion and the type of landmines used in order to find out which armed group planted them.
Civilians are worried about landmines around areas where clashes occurred in Kesi and Mongkung townships in southern Shan state. According to Major Sai Phone Harn of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP/SSA), they will do their best to sort out the problem.
“The current landmine problem in Mongkung and Laikha where people are afraid to go, do farming, etc. because of the landmines, those places are not where we planted the mines. However, we will do our best according to our knowledge to clear the mines and help the civilians”, quoted by Major Phone Harn.
Although the international community has banned the use of landmines, Myanmar is one of the countries that still use them the most.
According to Landmine Monitor data from 2000 to 2020, 5,200 people were affected by landmines and 900 people lost their lives – most of them from Shan and Kachin state.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) formed a group to monitor landmines and since 1999 the group has been recording landmines in Myanmar. The ICBL called on Myanmar’s armed groups to immediately stop laying landmines and urged the authorities to facilitate the organization’s humanitarian assistance to clear the mines in accordance with international standards.
Even though there are casualties and life-threatening incidents in southern Shan State due to landmines, awareness programs are still weak and insufficient regarding the danger of landmines.
Clashes between ethnic armed groups are spreading to Laikha and Panglong townships from Kesi and Mongkung townships. The inhabitants of these areas are worried and anxious about the landmines installed after the clashes.
The future of the landmine victims, Nang Kyar U and Nang Mo Khao, who stepped on the landmine in February this year is very vague.
“The younger sister has severely damaged the nerves in her thigh and she will not function normally. We both won’t be able to work as usual, and our father is also very old – life would be so hard for us after that. As we have never experienced such a thing, we are very discouraged now,” Nang Kyar U, who is still receiving treatment, told SHAN with disappointment.