Mine Action

Last updated: 28 October 2014

Contamination and Impact


Mines are believed to be concentrated along parts of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar’s borders with Bangladesh, China, and Thailand, but are a particular threat in eastern parts of the country as a result of decades of post-independence struggles for autonomy by ethnic minorities. Some 50 townships in Kachin, Kayin (Karen), Kayah (Karenni), Mon, Rakhine, and Shan states, as well as in Bago (Pegu) and Tanintharyi (Tenasserim) regions, suffer from some degree of mine contamination, primarily from antipersonnel mines.[1] Karen (Kayin) state and Pegu (Bago) division are suspected to contain the heaviest mine contamination and have the highest number of recorded victims. The Monitor has also received reports of previously unknown suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) in townships on the Indian border of Chin state and in the Sagaing region.[2]

No estimate exists of the extent of contamination, but the Monitor identified SHAs in the following divisions and townships:

·         Karenni state: all seven townships;

·         Karen state: all seven townships;

·         Kachin state: Chipwi, Mansi, Mogaung,Momauk, Myitkyina, Tsawlaw, and Waingmaw;

·         Mon state: Bilin, Kyaikto, Mawlamyine, Thanbyuzayat, Thaton, and Ye;

·         Pegu division: Kyaukkyi, Shwekyin, Tantabin, and Taungoo;

·         Rakhine state: Maungdaw;

·         Shan state: Hopong, Hsihseng, Langkho, Loilen, Mawkmai, Mongpan, Mongton, Monghpyak, Namhsan Tachileik, Namtu, Nanhkan, Yaksawk, and Ywangan;

·         Tenasserim division: Bokpyin, Dawei, Tanintharyi, Thayetchaung, and Yebyu; and

·         Chin state.

In May 2012, international mine clearance operator Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) conducted a three-day assessment of Kuyak Kyi in Bago Division to support the resettlement of communities displaced by conflict. The assessment confirmed that areas considered for resettlement were mine-affected but NPA did not receive subsequent authorization to conduct a more detailed survey of the area.[3]

In 2013, humanitarian mine action teams[4] of the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) documented 67 dangerous areas in eastern Bago region and Kayin and Mon states, including 35 reports verifying earlier survey findings as well as 32 new surveys. Some 74% of the dangerous areas were contaminated by antipersonnel mines, 18% by unexploded ordnance (UXO), and the balance by antivehicle mines.[5]

During 2013, the Border Consortium with the assistance of 11 community-based organizations surveyed 209 villages in 22 townships in southern Shan, Mon, Kayin, and Kayah states, and the eastern Bago and Thanintharyi regions, receiving information about the presence of mines in 48% of the villages surveyed.[6]

Explosive remnants of war

Myanmar is also affected by explosive remnants of war (ERW), including mortars, grenades, artillery, and ordnance dating back to World War II, but the location or full extent of such contamination is not known.[7]

Mine Action Program

In 2011, Myanmar agreed in principle to the creation of a Myanmar Mine Action Center under the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and agreed to hire five staff to work on mine action, however as of the start of 2014, no further action to establish it had been made. The MPC is led by the Minister of the Office of the President, U Aung Min, and is responsible for coordinating negotiation and implementing peace agreements with Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. The MPC has since made clear that the mine action centre will not be functional prior to the signing of the National Ceasefire Agreement currently under negotiation between the Government and a coalition of ethnic armed groups.

In 2013, a technical working group comprised of government representatives from the MPC and humanitarian actors completed work on a draft national mine action strategy and on national mine action standards. As of October 2014, the strategy and standards had not received government approval and reportedly remained under consideration by the MPC.[8]

International demining organizations, including Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (APOPO), DanChurchAid (DCA), Danish Demining Group (DDG), Foundation Suisse Deminage (FSD), HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), and NPA, have opened offices in Yangon over the past two years. As of October 2014 none had received authorization to conduct humanitarian mine clearance.[9]

Minister U Aung Min told the Monitor in May 2012 that mine clearance is a government priority, but said the peace negotiations and agreements between the government and ethnic minorities need to be firmly established before mine clearance can begin.[10] As of October 2014 dialogue on a nationwide ceasefire continued.[11]

No decision has yet been taken on which authorities will oversee mine clearance in ethnic minority areas. A January draft of proposals by ethnic armed groups for the nationwide ceasefire agreement specified that the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups would remove mines jointly.[12]

Mine action in 2013−2014

No mine clearance by accredited humanitarian demining organizations has occurred in Myanmar. Sporadic and unregulated mine removal has been reported in recent years by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army), villagers, and ethnic minority organizations.

NPA, in agreement with the government and the New Mon State Party, conducted three non-technical surveys in Mon and Kayin states in 2014. The first two surveys covered eight villages in Ye township, Mon state (7 January–5 February); nine villages in Mudon and Thanbyuzayat townships, Mon state, and 10 villages in Kawkareit township, Kayin state (24 April–21 May). A third survey, started on 24 July and still under way in September 2014, focused on 43 villages in Ye township, Mon state. The surveys did not identify any mined areas. NPA was informed there were mined areas close to some of the surveyed villages, but was not allowed access to them. The survey team recorded seven landmine incidents that occurred at least 10 years earlier.[13]

No information on demining by the Tatmadaw was available. In June 2014 in Hlaingbwe township, villagers reported that a former Tatmadaw military base continued to be contaminated by blast and fragmentation mines although, before leaving, soldiers said the area had been cleared.[14] In northern Hpapun district of Kayin state, Tatmadaw units reportedly spread salt in fields near four villages in April 2013 in order to attract animals that would detonate mines in the area. Some 20 to 30 animals reportedly died as a result.[15]

Among actions taken in ethnic minority areas, the United Committee of Karen Armed Groups—comprised of the local commands of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Karen National Union (KNU), and Karen Border Guard Force (BGF)—reportedly removed some mines in the Myaing Gyi Ngu area of Hlaingbwe Township, Kaying state in July and August 2013 but no details of the mines or clearance operation were available. One DKBA soldier was reportedly injured during mine removal.[16] The KNU announced in July 2013 that it had instructed its brigades and local authorities in areas it controls to conduct demining.

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) include a course on mine identification and emergency clearance procedures in annual training programs for new relief teams.[17] Mines encountered on their missions have either been removed by FBR personnel, who turn them over to anti-government militias, or are removed by militia members.

A national working group on mine risk education was established in 2012 under the Ministry of Social Welfare, with the participation of different ministries and by UN agencies and NGOs. It meets quarterly with about 30 organizations and agencies taking part. As of April 2014, mine risk education was being provided by nine organizations in 16 townships and reaching 110 villages.[18] In addition, five community-based organizations (CBOs) in ethnic areas undertook MRE in Kayin and Kayah state.[19] In October 2013, national NGO Myanmar Aid Foundation provided mine risk education in four villages in Shwegyin, in eastern Bago under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Welfare.[20]

In February 2013, DCA conducted a Knowledge Attitude and Practice Survey on the Impact of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War with technical advice from UNICEF in 30 randomly selected villages in Kayah, Kayin, and Mon states, and the Bago and Thanintharyi regions. As of October 2014, the survey final report had not been released. According to preliminary findings provided in June 2014, 53% of respondents knew of areas near their village or ward with explosive devices and 47% stated that these devices are a problem in everyday life.[21]


[1] Myanmar/Burma is divided up into both states and regions. States are the “home area” of ethnic groups, and are always named after one; other areas, which are not seen as the home area of a specific ethnic group, are called divisions. The former military junta changed the name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989 and also changed the names of some states. Many ethnic groups within the country still prefer to use the name Burma. Internal state and division names are given in their common form or with the name adopted by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in parentheses.

[2] Research conducted by the Monitor. Data sources included casualty information, sightings of mine warnings, and reports by NGOs and other organizations of use, as well as interviews with field staff and armed forces personnel. The survey included casualty data from January 2007 through June 2010 and data from other informants from January 2008 through June 2010.

[3] Interview with Andreas Indregard, NPA, Bangkok, 12 April 2012; and telephone interview with Aksel Steen-Nilsen, NPA, 21 June 2012.

[4] CIDKP humanitarian mine action teams conduct survey and mine risk education in affected communities.

[5] Meeting with Program Manager, DanChurchAid (DCA), Chiang Mai, 9 October 2014. DCA provides technical assistance and support to CIDKP humanitarian mine action teams.

[6]Poverty, Displacement & Local Governance in Southeast Burma/Myanmar,” Thai Border Consortium, 1 November 2013. Additional data provided to Landmine Monitor by Duncan McArthur, Partnership Director, The Border Consortium, 12 January 2014.

[7] See for example, Nay Thwin, “World War II ordnance kills three,” Democratic Voice of Burma, 20 March 2012; “WWII bomb kills 7 in Arakan,” Irrawaddy, 1 September 2011; and Mann Thar Lay, “Mandalay workers uncover WWII bomb,” Myanmar Times, Vol. 23, No. 455, 26 January–1 February 2009.

[8] Email from international mine action agency staff member, Yangon, 27 October 2014.

[9] Email from Aksel Steen-Nilsen, Mine Action Programme Manager, NPA, Yangon, 23 September 2014.

[10] Landmine Monitor interview with President’s Minister Aung Min, Naypidaw, May 2013.

[12] Law Kee Lar, Draft Proposal for a Nationwide Ceasefire, Chapter 4 Military Affairs, 4.1(j). Translation by the Monitor, 25 January 2014.

[13] Email from Aksel Steen-Nilsen, NPA, Yangon, 23 September 2014.

[14] Information provided to the Landmine Monitor by the Karen Human Rights Group, 16 September 2014.

[15] Information provided by the Karen Human Rights Group, 16 September 2013.

[16] Hinthani (Mon Myay), “Landmine clearance in Myaing Gyi Ngu nearing completion: Karen groups,” Mizzima, 21 August 2013.

[17]FBR Report: 13 New Ranger Teams Graduate, Go on Missions,” Free Burma Rangers, Karen state, Myanmar, 17 December 2013.

[18]MIMU 3W - April 2014, Countrywide Overview,” UN Myanmar Information Management Unit, April 2014.

[19] The five CBOs were Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, Karenni Social Welfare and Development Centre, Karen Relief and Development Committee, Karen Teachers Working Group, and Eastern Burma Community Schooling. Meeting with Program Manager, DCA, Chiang Mai, 9 October 2014. DCA provides technical assistance and support for mine risk education to CBOs.

[20] “Educative talks on landmines given,” New Light of Myanmar, 31 October 2013, p. 2.

[21] “Knowledge Attitude & Practice Survey: Impact of landmines and other Explosive Remnants of War In South East Myanmar, First Findings, February 2013 – June 2014,” provided by DCA Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) team, 4 July 2014.