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Emil, NPA map mine affected areas for internally displaced persons in Myanmar

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NPA has been requested by the Karen National Union to map the landmine situation in four villages in the southeast of Myanmar. This is the first time NPA will get access to mine-affected areas, and represents an important breakthrough in solving the mine problem in contaminated areas in Myanmar.

FACTS

NPA Mine action in Myanmar is supported by the European Union with a grant of Euro 3,500,000 and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign with grants of NOK 7,050.000.

NPA has been involved in peace-support efforts in the southeast in the States and Regions of Bago, Mon, Kayah, Kayin and Taninthariy since April 2012. The aims of the peace-support effort have been to provide much-needed assistance to conflict-affected IDPs, to support trust building and dialogue at the local level in order to increase confidence in the bilateral ceasefires, and to expand humanitarian space in the area. This work has been done in coordination and cooperation with local IDP communities, non-state armed groups, civil society organizations and relevant state institutions. However, due to the ongoing negotiations regarding the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement between 16 non-state armed groups and the Government of Myanmar, as well as lack of trust between the parties, the issue of landmine contamination has been difficult to address until recently. This has been a tremendous challenge, as a great number of IDP villagers are faced with the danger posed by landmines to their lives and livelihoods on a daily basis.

The goal of humanitarian mine action is to reduce the risks associated with mines and explosive remnants of war thus improving public safety in the broader context of human security. Where landmine contamination impedes post-conflict recovery, as is indeed the case in Myanmar, humanitarian mine action is a prerequisite for the rehabilitation and development of affected areas. NPA has until today only succeeded in implementing some elements of NTS – to confirm the potential presence or absence of landmines and explosive remnants of war on given geographical locations.

NPA has recently experienced a significant breakthrough regarding the prospects for operational mine action activities in Myanmar, after receiving a request from the Karen National Union, regarding survey of the mine situation of four IDP villages in eastern Bago and northern Kayin. The initiative has been approved by the President’s Office, and welcomed by the Chief Ministers in Bago and Kayin. Three of the villages were abandoned by the local population between 1975 and 1982, fleeing conflict between the Myanmar army and the Karen National Liberation Army, and the villagers have remained displaced for the last forty years. As one villager commented when NPA was doing an assessment of the area, “I want to move back to my village that I had to abandon in 1975 due to conflict. I would like to bring my family back and start cultivating my land again. However, due to the presence of landmines, it is not possible”. NPA has been informed that the last mine-accident in this area happened in December 2014.

Solving the mine-problem entails a multi-step approach, in which conducting non-technical survey, is the first step, to be followed by technical survey and humanitarian demining. An important part of the NTS is assessing the needs for post-mine clearance support for the return of IDPs, regarding rehabilitation of the villages including shelter, water, irrigation, agricultural or livelihood support and –development, schools, roads, power supply etc. The rehabilitation and reintegration effort related to IDP return after decades of conflict in Myanmar is extremely complex and will demand finding solutions and making agreements between non-state ethnic armed groups and Myanmar Government institutions, as well as collaboration with local- and international actors to provide services based on needs assessments and consultations with the internally displaced and other relevant stakeholders.

NPA welcomes the invitation from the Karen National Union to start this important work in two of the states and regions of Myanmar, which would also not have been possible without the support from the President’s office and government authorities at the state- and regional levels in Kayin and Bago. Hopefully, the nationwide ceasefire agreement will be signed in June 2015, opening more humanitarian space including the much needed interventions necessary to solve the mine problem in affected areas, laying the foundation for return and reintegration of war affected populations, as well as the foundations for a just peace.