Time to act: nine out of fourteen Myanmar states and regions are contaminated with landmines

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On International Mine Awareness Day the European Union calls on the government to take action against mines in Myanmar

Decades of conflict left nine out of the 14 Myanmar states and regions heavily contaminated with antipersonnel mines, with serious effects on the socio-economic development in affected areas. Landmines indeed mostly affect civilians and rural communities where farmers are forced to risk their lives cultivating crops on contaminated fields. Survivors of landmine incidents and their families are particularly affected by poverty as the handicaps resulting from mine injuries force most victims to give up their livelihood activities. Landmines pose a particular risk for children playing in the fields and students commuting to and from their schools: one in four mine victims in Myanmar in 2016/17 was a child. Long after the end of conflict, landmines therefore remain a barrier to the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, to livelihoods and economic development, and access to schools and hospitals.

The European Union and UNICEF Myanmar have produced Mine Risk Education (MRE) toolkits in local languages to raise awareness of the threats posed by landmines among communities. More than 100,000 children, adolescents and teachers participated so far in MRE lessons in villages, schools and camps in Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Tanintharyi and Bago. The project also involved government officials and parliamentarians in information sessions on effective mine action and worked with the Ministry of Education to include MRE lessons in education curricula.

"Mine Risk Education saves many lives in affected countries – but it can only treat the symptoms. To cure the disease, the government, military forces and the ethnic leaders need to put an end to the use of landmines in Myanmar and allow for widespread mine clearance operations," said EU Ambassador Kristian Schmidt at an event hosted by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement at the occasion of International Mine Awareness Day on 4 April 2018. "We in particular encourage the government to join the Ottawa Treaty banning the use of landmines. This would be an important first step in eradicating landmines from Myanmar forever.

In a joint statement issued on 4 April, the EU Delegation and the EU member states in Myanmar called on the government to take urgent action against mines in Myanmar. "Mines and explosive remnants of war are not only a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of civilians, but also a cause for increased poverty levels and a significant impediment for socio-economic development in the affected areas. The European Union offers its full support in advancing Mine Risk Education across the country and stands ready to assist mine clearance operations."

Read the full speech of the EU Ambassador on International Mine Awareness Day [attached].