Myanmar junta is planting landmines on 'massive scale', Amnesty International says

Amnesty International has accused the Myanmar junta of committing war crimes by laying landmines in villages on a “massive scale” in conflict areas where rebel groups are challenging the coup.

The rights group said it carried out an on-ground investigation in Kayah province where fresh fighting between the junta and rebels has been reported and it found “credible information” that the military has been using several types of landmines to target the groups.

The landmines, some of them lethal enough to blow off a person’s legs, were placed in people’s yards, at the entrance of homes and outside toilets, the international nonprofit said.

In at least one documented case, soldiers booby-trapped a house stairwell with a trip-wire improvised explosive device, it added.

Researchers from the organisation interviewed 43 people, including landmine survivors, witnesses and healthcare workers, in Kayah state’s Demoso, Hpruso and Loikaw townships as part of its investigation. It also visited several recently de-mined villages during its visit to the area from 25 June to 8 July.

“The Myanmar military’s use of landmines is abhorrent and cruel,” Matt Wells, Amnesty International’s crisis response deputy director of thematic issues, said in a statement.

“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.”

The report said locals had been trying to de-mine the areas but “by hand with only rudimentary equipment and without any professional training”, posing a risk to them.

The ongoing conflict between rebel forces that reject the rule of the military junta which seized power in a coup in February 2021 and ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has led to the deaths of over 2,000 people with hundreds of thousands displaced, according to figures released by the UN.

The military has been cracking down on any kind of protests against its rule with force while armed groups continue their resistance.