The ongoing conflict in Myanmar remains overpowering as Amnesty International, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for human rights, stated that Myanmar junta troops are responsible for “committing war crimes” by planting landmines on a “massive scale” in the communities of Kayah (Karenni) State where they are confronting anti-coup fighters.

At least 20 villages and the trails leading to agricultural areas experienced destructive blows because the military deployed mines, which led to the deaths and injuries of several civilians.

Since May 2021, when the crisis in Kayah State was re-ignited amid the military coup, these locations have been at the forefront of hostilities between the military and Karenni armed groups. Amnesty International further stated that it had documented multiple cases in which military members had placed mines on the grounds of a church or in the surrounding area.

According to the human rights watch group, during a trip to the state of Kayah, which is located close to the border of Thailand, Amnesty researchers conducted interviews from June 25 to July 8 with landmine survivors, healthcare workers who had treated them, as well as other individuals participating in clearing efforts. The group interviewed about 43 people in Kayah State’s Demoso, Hpruso, and Loikaw Townships.

“The Myanmar military’s use of landmines is abhorrent and cruel. At a time when the world has overwhelmingly banned these inherently indiscriminate weapons, the military has placed them in people’s yards, homes, and even stairwells, as well as around a church,” said Matt Wells, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Deputy Director – Thematic Issues.

In line with this, Amnesty called on democratic nations to act on the crimes perpetrated by the military against civilians in MyanmaFurthermore, theyhey highlight the urgency of providing an immediate response from the global community.

What Are These Landmines Placed by Juntas?

Amnesty says it has “credible information” that the military used mines in at least 20 villages (Handout / Amnesty International / AFP). (Source: TRT World)

Myanmar’s landmines include the M-14, which usually causes the victim’s foot to be severed at the ankle, and the more powerful MM-2, which generally causes the victim’s leg to be amputated in addition to injuries to other portions of the body. Victims are also prone to a high probability of death resulting from blood loss.

Since antipersonnel landmines, such as the M-14 and MM-2, are “inherently indiscriminate” as per the Amnesty, the usage of these weapons is prohibited not only under customary international humanitarian law but also by the Mine Ban Treaty. Landmine Monitor claims that the military of Myanmar is the only state-level armed force that has been proven to have used antipersonnel landmines in 2020 and 2021. 

According to Amnesty, soldiers have placed landmines in people’s yards, at the entrance of homes, and outside toilets, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries. (Handout / Amnesty International / AFP) (Source: TRT World)

Testimony of the victim

Since June 2021, the Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG) has collected evidence indicating that at least 20 civilians in Kayah State have been killed or critically injured as a result of landmines. Activists, local community aid workers, and individuals without prior training who have attempted to demine villages claim that the military’s use of landmines in the region has accelerated dramatically over the past few months, particularly as they retreat from specific areas. 

One testimony that proves the legitimacy of accusations is that of Rosie and her daughter Ma Thein.

After encountering displacement in Loikaw town back in January, Rosie, 52, and her daughter Ma Thein Yar Lin, 17, attempted to return there in early April 2022. Rosie stopped their motorcycle close to a bumpy road, and Ma Thein Yar Lin walked a little distance away to use the restroom of the nearby building. A few moments later, Rosie heard an explosion and witnessed her daughter lying on the ground with no leg.

“I noticed that my daughter had no leg anymore… I went searching for [her leg], but the man who [was passing by and stopped] to help us said, ‘Stop! There will be another landmine. The most important thing is to stop the bleeding.'”

Ma Thein Yar Lin got severe damage from landmine pieces throughout her left leg. She also lost the lower portion of her right leg from the mid-calf down. At this point, she is using a wheelchair given to her by a friend.

Long-spanning History of Violence

Throughout the country’s decades-long civil war, its armed forces received accusations of committing numerous violence and war crimes. After the Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration was dethroned, the military engaged in the brutal repression of dissent that resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people and the detention of around 15,000.