Narinjara news

Those Human Minesweepers

Maungdw, 2 December:  In the western part of Burma, the ruling junta commanders have been reported to use people in clearing landmines along the Burma-Bangladesh border in recent weeks, according to our correspondent. 

Beginning November 22, the Burmese Nasaka security forces have engaged forced labour in clearing landmines on the Burmese side of the border under Nasaka Area No. 2, north to Maungdaw Town on the Naaf River.  

At least twenty villagers from the Burmese side have recently crossed the border and took shelter at Reju, a Rakhine village on Bangladesh side under Bandarban Hill District, fleeing the landmine-clearing drive by using forced labour consisting of a number of residents of border villages.  The forced labourers found two anonymous Bangladeshi ‘intruders’ with them who were arrested and forced to work in the landmine-clearing drive as human ‘minesweepers’, a local headman said.  The mine clearing drive has been conducted around border pillar no. 53.

According to our correspondent, in the last week of October there was a landmine blast at a model village in the area that killed a Burmese army sergeant and that, the Nasaka Forces themselves laid the mines in the area.    But as there was no proper record of the exact locations of the landmines, the Nasaka troops are now at a loss as to the spots where the previous Nasaka troops had laid the mines. 

To avoid being finger pointed the Nasaka troops have invented that the landmines had been laid by Arakan rebel groups, and to prove their ‘story’ true, they arrested two Bangladeshi intruders and forced them to lead the group of ‘landmine-clearing gang’ accompanied by a few dozen villagers as forced labourers.  

Because they have no record or ‘map’ of the laid landmines, the Nasaka troops have been driving the cattle and buffaloes forcefully taken from the villages over the entire area for mine-clearing purposes, causing death to the animals.  Though no report of human casualty has yet been received, people in the nearby villages have fled their homes in panic.

Burma has landmines laid along its border with Bangladesh extending from Maungdaw to Paletwa Townships, along a stretch of 208 km, between border pillars 31 and 73.  At pillar 73, the three borders of Burma, Bangladesh and India meet.  According to the “Landmine Monitor Report 2001: Burma”, published from Thailand, ‘a total of 26 elephants are now known to have perished in Bangladesh where no veterinary help for them is available”.

In January 2000, a Chak woman, Ma Hla Sein (30) married to a Chak from the Burmese side (Maungdaw Township) came to visit her parents on Bangladesh side (Headman para, Baishari) was killed in a landmine blast.  Her one-year old baby flew off her lap and while toddling around was hit by another landmine, getting killed instantly, according to the village headman there.  #