MYANMAR: Lack of care for landmine victims (Myanmar)

YANGON, 15 July 2009 (IRIN) - Hundreds of landmine victims every year never receive adequate rehabilitation assistance, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).


While there are no exact figures, the group says the numbers are "substantial". Myanmar is second only to Afghanistan in terms of landmine casualties in Asia.

NGOs believe the casualty figures over the past five to six years have been increasing.

"The landmine problem in Burma is alarming," Afredo Ferrariz Lubang, regional representative for the NGO Nonviolence International in Bangkok told IRIN, citing at least one case a day.

"Not only does it pose a threat but it is crippling Burma's future on a daily basis," he said.

Access to services remains "inadequate", ICBL said.

Widespread use

Landmines have long been used along the borders with Thailand and Bangladesh where Myanmar's government has been battling armed rebel groups.

In December, ICBL reported widespread landmine use in Karen, Karenni, Rakhine and Shan States and the Tenaserrim and Pegu Divisions.

In addition to domestically produced mines, Myanmar has also obtained and used Chinese, Indian, Italian, Soviet and US-manufactured mines, ICBL says.

"The Burma army continues to use landmines. Not only on the border with Thailand, but all over the Karen, Karenni and Shan states of eastern Burma," David Eubank, director of the Free Burma Rangers, an organisation providing medical and other assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), told IRIN from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Some reports suggest that prisoners have been forced to assist in mine-clearing efforts, while Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the government of planting mines around rice crops in areas cleared by the military during counter-insurgency operations.

"It's a fairly common practice - particularly in conflict areas in Karen state," David Scott Mathieson, Burma researcher for HRW told IRIN from the Thai border town of Mae Sot. "The idea is to deter civilians from returning to their villages to collect their belongings or tend their crops."

Despite reporting difficulties, some 438 casualties were recorded in 2007 compared with 243 in 2006, Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, research coordinator for the Landmine Monitor, which provides research to ICBL, told IRIN. "That's an 80 percent increase."

Of those injured in 2007, the latest figures available, 47 people died, up from 20 deaths in 2006 - although those numbers are also not conclusive.
Access to services

In 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stopped assisting three physical rehabilitation centres run by the Ministry of Health and three centres run by the Ministry of Defence.

It continues, however, to support the Myanmar Red Cross's outreach prosthetic programme in the southeast, the area worst affected by landmines.

According to ICRC's annual report for 2008, 223 amputees who might otherwise have been unable to travel were helped to the Hpa-an centre to receive appropriate care.

In 2008, 5,419 patients (including 694 women and 371 children) received help at the ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation centre, including 1,031 new patients (including 69 women and 30 children).

While prosthetic limbs are available to refugees along the Thai border at refugee camps and at the Mao Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, as well as through Thai hospitals, for those inside the country, access remains poor.

Limited service is available on the Bangladesh and Indian borders.

Myanmar's government remains one of more than 30 countries in the world that has not signed up to the 1997 Ottawa Convention, an international agreement banning the use of anti-personnel mines.


Von:, 15.07.09

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