1,052 Myanmar civilian casualties in 2023 from landmines: UNICEF News
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1,052 Myanmar civilian casualties in 2023 from landmines: UNICEF

UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) revealed Wednesday the use of indiscriminate landmines in Myanmar has caused an increase in civilian casualties, with over 20 percent of them being children. Civilians in Myanmar have suffered from a total of 1,052 casualties from landmine and explosive ordnances in 2023, alone.

According to UNICEF, amidst the recent escalation of the conflict in Myanmar, landmine contamination has spread across nearly every state and region—excluding the capital of Naypyidaw. Of particular concern is the heightened vulnerability of children, who often lack the awareness to recognize landmines and the risks they present.

On this matter, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Debora Comini noted the following:

The use of landmines is not only reprehensible but can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law […] It is imperative that all parties to the conflict prioritize the safety and well-being of civilians, especially children, and take immediate steps to stop the use of these indiscriminate weapons

Myanmar is a state party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. These conventions are the cornerstone of international humanitarian law as they aim to mitigate the effects of conflict by protecting those who do not actively participate in hostilities, including civilians and medical and humanitarian personnel, as well as those who are incapacitated or detained, such as wounded soldiers and war prisoners. International humanitarian law not only demands there be special protection for children, it also prohibits the use of indiscriminate weapons such as landmines. Even Article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Myanmar acceded in 1991, mandates compliance with humanitarian law and requires states protect and care for children affected by armed conflict.

The escalation of the conflict in Myanmar dates back to the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) coup on February 1, 2021, which led to the arrest of key government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. However, the Tatmadaw has suffered significant setbacks in recent months. Since the offensive began on October 27, opposition forces have taken control of several towns in Shan State, disrupted key border routes, and forced hundreds of Tatmadaw soldiers to surrender. Despite the military’s relentless air and artillery bombardment, recapturing lost territory has proven difficult, emboldening other rebel groups nationwide to intensify their attacks and compounding the military’s losses.

UNICEF issued a call on Wednesday for $208.3 million in funding to provide life-saving aid and essential services to the 3.1 million children and families most affected by the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.