Myanmar government troops clashed with armed, pro-democracy resistance forces in the country’s northwestern Sagaing region in June, concern grew over dangers lurking underground, particularly around a Chinese-run copper mine in the area. The military regime seized power in February 2021 and, after several failed attempts, is trying to root out the rebels so that resource extraction can proceed unhindered. However, experts noted that the government’s strategies to protect the Letpadaung copper mine and other Chinese interests include surrounding them with antipersonnel land mines.
According to Nikkei Asia, the rapid growth of these weapons that kill and maim indiscriminately is taking a toll on civilians and threatens to disintegrate the country. “Landmines are being used by the military as a tactic to protect Chinese assets,” said Jason Tower, Myanmar country director at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based think tank. This is the fourth time since the coup. was when the soldiers attacked.” To resume work was used near the Letpadaung mine, which also has landmines around it,” he said of the operation in June. Letpadaung has been inactive since the military ousted the elected government two years ago. This was the result of growing anti-regime resistance by an estimated 16 pro-democracy groups, who collectively make up the People’s Defense Force operating in Sagaing. The Chinese company that has a stake in the mine is a subsidiary of Wanbao Mining, which is affiliated with China’s state-owned defence corporation China North Industries Group (Norinco).
Nikkei Asia reported Wanbao Mining declined to comment on its mine allegedly being filled with hidden explosives. According to the Landmine Monitor Myanmar/Burma Country Report for December 2022, in August last year, evidence of land mines being used by one of the pro-democracy armed groups to erect the Latpadang fence came to light. The copper mine has been mired in controversy over the years. In addition, local communities have protested against toxic outflows, including tailings from mines or waste byproducts that pollute groundwater. In late 2012, violence erupted after villagers raged against the project as another symbol of Chinese economic dominance among them. But the mine also affected democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, long before her government is ousted in a February 2021 power grab. Later, in 2013, when Myanmar was a quasi-democracy under military moderates, Suu Kyi – as leader of the opposition and chair of a commission of inquiry on anti-mine protests – defended the plan to operate the mine, Nikkei Asia reported.
Now, other assets backed by China are also drawing attention regarding the military regime’s use of buried explosives, such as the domestic MM6 antipersonnel mine. According to Landmine Monitor, the list includes a power station along the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline in northern Shan State, as well as parts of the pipeline across the country. “The mines have been laid to protect infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road initiative,” the report said. The generals’ strategy to pacify China and protect assets – Myanmar’s powerful neighbour in the northeast and a key diplomatic and economic ally supporting the regime – hasn’t swayed those campaigning against land mines like Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan Is.
“This is the only place in the world that we know of where landmines have been laid around Chinese infrastructure projects,” said Moser-Puangsuwan, lead author of the Myanmar land mine report. According to Nikkei Asia, he added, “It is definitely the actions of the junta … who warned nearby villages not to go to the places where landmines had been laid.”Myanmar’s domestic weapon The industry produces five types of antipersonnel land mines and has benefited from a US$1 billion arms trade with foreign suppliers under military rule.
A report released in May by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, titled “The Billion Dollar Death Trade: The International Arms Networks That Enable Human Rights Violations in Myanmar”, revealed that the Myanmar military’s defence industry According to Nikkei Asia, the Directorate of Weapons Factory, also known as “Kapasa”, imported foreign equipment for the manufacture of “small arms ammunition, hand grenades, artillery shells and anti-personnel and anti-vehicle land mines”. supply is used.
Opponents of the regime, including ethnic armed groups and the People’s Defense Force, have reportedly buried their landmines – a cheap and convenient alternative to weaponry – to make the threat worse. The spread has also been highlighted in reports from the United Nations Children’s Fund, which in its assessment for the first quarter of this year found land mine contamination in Sagaing, Shan State and 10 other regions of Myanmar. that serious picture The landmines mirror the monitor’s findings, which say that, in 2021, about 97 of Myanmar’s 325 townships in 12 states and territories, “had some degree of contamination, mainly from antipersonnel mines.” But that figure is set to rise to 147 townships in 2022, including new areas affected by landmines “due to the ongoing conflict since the coup”.
In addition, growing clusters of land mines along the changing front lines of Myanmar’s bloody conflict have contributed to speculation about the country’s dismemberment, reports Nikkei Asia. David Scott Mathieson, a veteran analyst of Myanmar political issues and author of the report on the country’s ethnic armed forces, said, “Myanmar was balkanized before the coup, but it has been turbocharged since the military took power. ” He added, “The space of military control has shrunk since the coup…and this poses a challenge to the Chinese, who seek stability as a precondition for projects.”
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), there were 388 deaths nationwide during the first four months of 2023, down from the 390 reported for 2022. Humanitarian groups worry that the worst is yet to come and their fear is based on decades of observation of deaths and injuries from land mine explosions. According to Nikkei Asia, the Landmine Monitor counted 5,629 casualties between 2000 and 2021, with 1,008 killed and 4,500 injured.
In response to an email query about Myanmar’s worsening land mine warfare, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said, “Year after year civilian casualties involving land mines, unexploded ordnance and other explosive devices reach into the hundreds.”. Land mines and other explosive devices make no distinction as to who steps on them, and many communities are severely affected.” Beyond the death toll, the ICRC said the proliferation of land mines caused “families to lose their breadwinners either because of injuries or (the impossibility of farmers to use their land).”