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Plans to remove landmines from various areas around Tenasserim Division are underway, according to that region’s Minister for Security and Border Affairs Colonel Zaw Lwin.
Speaking to DVB recently, he said that discussions on formalising the de-mining programme were had during the first week of February at the monthly regional Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee meeting.
“The mine-clearance talks began with a focus on areas in the vicinity of ethnic armed group outposts,” said the minister.
But Thant Zin, the chairperson and founder of the NGO Peace Myanmar Aid Foundation, which has been lobbying for a national ban on landmines, said the government has yet to announce an official plan to proceed with demining in the region. He also complained that the regional assembly in Tenasserim (officially known as Tanintharyi) had not reached out to local NGOs about the programme.
“As far as we know, negotiations between the government and the local ethnic armed groups have not yet succeeded. A mine-clearance project can only be initiated when all parties have agreed to it,” said Thant Zin, a former military officer who lost a leg to a landmine.
Since the peace process gained momentum in 2012, hundreds of Tenasserim locals who had been displaced by conflict have been returning to their homes and villages. Likewise, armed groups such as the Karen National Union (KNU), All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) and New Mon State Party (NMSP) have also resumed operations in the region.
Thant Zin told DVB that he would suggest the regional government consider a thorough demining programme before resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area.
Of the armed groups active in the southern coastal region, the KNU and ABSDF in 2015 signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government. The NMSP is yet to become a signatory to the accord. According to the terms of the NCA, all signatory parties must desist from laying landmines and take part in a nationwide demining programme.
Burma has the third highest number of landmine casualties globally, behind only Colombia and Afghanistan. According to the Landmine Monitor 2016, 419 people were killed and 3,156 injured by landmines in Burma between 1999 and 2015.
Burma is not a signatory to the international Mine Ban Treaty.