BANGKOK: Landmines and unexploded munitions injured or killed more than one person every day in Myanmar last year, the UN said, pointing to a 40% spike in casualties compared to 2021.
The military’s toppling of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in 2021 sparked renewed fighting with ethnic rebel groups and the formation of dozens of “People’s Defence Forces” in areas previously untouched by decades of conflict in Myanmar.
The Southeast Asian nation is not a signatory to the UN convention that prohibits the use, stockpiling or development of anti-personnel mines.
The UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, on Tuesday reported 390 people had been wounded or killed by landmines or unexploded ordnances in 2022, an almost 40% spike compared to the previous year.
Around two-thirds of the incidents were reported in border areas where ethnic rebels have battled the army and each other for decades over autonomy and control of resources like timber, jade and the drugs trade.
And almost one-fifth of the casualties were reported in northern Sagaing region, an area that was largely peaceful before the coup but has since emerged as a hotspot of resistance to military rule.
In 2020, the year before the coup, there were 254 victims, according to UNICEF.
Myanmar’s military has been repeatedly accused of atrocities and war crimes during decades of internal conflict.
Last year Amnesty International said its troops were laying landmines on a “massive scale” as they battled anti-coup fighters, including around churches and on paths to rice fields.
The Unicef figures did not include casualties resulting from the targeting of “local administrations and security forces” by anti-junta fighters, the agency said.
More than 5,000 people were killed by anti-coup fighters and allied ethnic rebels between the coup and January this year, according to the junta.
A local monitoring group says more than 3,000 people have been killed by junta security forces, while over 19,000 arrested in the military’s crackdown.