Mine Action

Last updated: 18 November 2016

Contaminated by: mines, primarily antipersonnel mines (heavy, but extent unknown), and explosive remnants of war (ERW).

Recommendation for action 

  • Myanmar should activate a mine action center to provide an official focal point for mine action, take the lead in gathering data on contamination and victims, and coordinate with stakeholders in developing a response. 


Myanmar is heavily mine-affected as a result of conflicts between the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army) and numerous non-state armed groups (NSAGs) affiliated with ethnic minorities, which started after independence in 1948. Mined areas are located in areas of Myanmar adjacent to borders with Bangladesh, China, and Thailand, but are a particular threat in northern and eastern parts of the country.

Some 60 townships (of a total of 325) in 10 states and regions are believed to suffer from some degree of mine contamination, primarily from antipersonnel mines.[1] Karen (Kayin) state and Pegu (Bago) division are among those with the heaviest mine contamination and the highest number of recorded victims. Townships on the Indian border of Chin state and in the Sagaing region also reportedly have suspected hazardous areas (SHAs).[2]

No estimate exists of the extent of contamination but SHAs have been reported in the following states and townships:

  • Kayah state: all seven townships.
  • Kayin state: all seven townships.
  • Kachin state: Chipwi, Hpakant, Mansi, Mogaung, Mohnyin, Momauk, Myitkyina, Sinbo, Tsawlaw, and Waingmaw.
  • Mon state: Bilin, Kyaikto, Mawlamyine, Thanbyuzayat, Thaton, and Ye.
  • Bago region: Kyaukkyi, Shwekyin, Tantabin, and Taungoo.
  • Rakhine state: Maungdaw.
  • Shan state: Hopong, Hsenwi, Hsihseng, Konkyan, Kyaukme, Langkho, Loilen, Mawkmai, Monghsu, Mongpan, Mongton, Monghpyak, Namhsan, Tachileik, Namtu, Nanhkan, Yaksawk, and Ywangan.
  • Tanintharyi region: Bokpyin, Dawei, Tanintharyi, Thayetchaung, and Yebyu.
  • Chin state: Paletwa.
  • Sagaing region: Indaw.

An ERW victim survey conducted for Danish Demining Group (DDG) in two states in 2015 concluded that most casualties in Kayah state had occurred many years ago and that the number of casualties in recent years was low. Researchers were informed of four accidents in 2014 and two in 2015. In Kachin state, where conflict resumed in 2011, the study found most accidents (90%) had taken place in the last four years with 60% occurring in the last two years, particularly in 2014. It found the heaviest concentration of incidents in Mansi and Momauk townships. Most of the mines found in those areas were handmade and activated by tripwires.[3] 

A situation analysis for humanitarian response in Myanmar released in September 2016 noted that, “Landmine contamination is a significant barrier to refugee return. It also continues to pose barriers to livelihoods, economic development, land ownership, and access to health and education services, all of which have gendered dimensions and implications.”[4]

Explosive remnants of war

Myanmar is also affected by ERW, including mortars, grenades, artillery, and ordnance dating back to World War II, but the location or extent of contamination is not known.[5] New ERW contamination has been reported related to armed conflict in late 2015 and early 2016 in Kachin state.[6] 

Program Management

The government agreed to set up a Myanmar Mine Action Center (MMAC) under the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in 2013, but the center was never fully staffed and the government said concluding a National Ceasefire Agreement with non-state actors was a precondition for proceeding to survey and clearance.[7]

The MPC was dissolved at the end of March 2016 and replaced by a National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), which reports to the state counsellor who said negotiations over the National Ceasefire Agreement would be her administration’s priority. The new NRPC has not stated when the MMAC would begin operations. At its first meeting, several participants emphasized the threat of mines and the need for mine clearance.[8] UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also discussed the issue of mine clearance when he met with the head of the military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in August 2016.[9] A national youth conference held in the capital Naypyitaw in May 2016 called for the army and ethnic armed groups to remove landmines.[10] Several civil society groups also called for mine clearance during the year (see Mine Ban Policy profile).

Strategic planning and standards

A technical working group comprising MPC officials and international humanitarian operators completed work on a draft national mine action strategy in 2013. As of October 2016, the strategy and standards had not received government approval and their status is unknown.[11]


International demining organizations, including APOPO, DanChurchAid (DCA), DDG, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Handicap International (HI), and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), have offices in Yangon. However, operators have not received authorization to conduct marking or clearance from either the government or non-state actors.[12]

Land Release

NPA conducted non-technical survey (NTS) at the Karen National Union (KNU)’s request in four villages in April 2015, following on from three surveys undertaken in Kayin and Mon state in early 2014 that did not identify any mined area. The 2015 surveys, one in Kyaukkyi township, Bago region, and three in Thandaunggi township, Kayin state, did not identify any mined areas, though it recorded 24 mine accidents during the previous two years.[13]

After conducting risk education, MAG supported community mapping in Bago region, which it said produced significant amounts of information enabling it to identify probable areas of contamination and prioritize areas for NTS.[14]

No mine clearance by government-accredited humanitarian demining organizations has occurred in Myanmar. 

Sporadic and unregulated mine removal has been reported in recent years by the Tatmadaw, villagers, and ethnic minority organizations. 

Progress in 2016

The military has stated that it is undertaking mine clearance in Kayin state. In September 2016, Deputy Minister of Defence Maj-Gen Myint Nwe stated in the Myanmar parliament that “At the moment, the Tatmadaw is working together with local people to conduct humanitarian landmine clearance activities in the confluence of Thumwehta, Hpapun, Khaw Pote, Nat Taung and Dar Gwin in Kayin state.”[15] Clearance of the road from Hpa-an to Hpapun in Kayin state for use by the military reportedly occurred by military personnel trained in China.[16]

In July 2016, MAG began a NTS pilot in Kayah state.[17]

Risk education 

The Department of Social Work has regularly convened a technical working group that focuses on risk education and victim assistance.[18] It is coordinated by UNICEF. Approximately 30 ministries, UN agencies, and NGOs attend the quarterly meetings.

In 2015, UNICEF developed a two-year national risk education strategy based on findings from a Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice (KAP) survey conducted by DCA in February 2013, with technical advice from UNICEF. The survey was conducted in 30 randomly selected villages in Kayah, Kayin, and Mon states, and the Bago and Thanintharyi regions. According to preliminary findings provided in June 2014, the survey found that 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.[19]

As of September 2016, at least six organizations implemented risk education projects, primarily in Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, and Shan states, and eastern Bago region, and to a lesser extent in Mon state, and Ayeyarwady, Tanintharyi, and Yangon regions. The six organizations were Association for Aid and Relief (AAR), Catholic Relief Services, DCA, MAG, HALO, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many other organizations were listed as implementing partners.[20] ICRC-trained National Society also conducted risk education.[21]

Almost all operators combined risk education with victim assistance and other services.[22] There is no accreditation process for risk education.[23] During risk education activities, local community members sometimes report hazardous items that need to be cleared. However, as there are no clearance operators in Myanmar, this need cannot be met.[24]

DCA has the largest risk education program covering 55 townships in Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, and Shan states and Ayeyarwady, Eastern Bago, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, and Yangon regions.

HALO implemented risk education in nine townships in Shan state and three townships in Kayah state. Catholic Relief Services implemented risk education in four townships in Kachin state and three townships in Kayin state.[25]

MAG has conducted risk education in all seven townships in Kayah, and began initial data collection and mapping of contaminated areas as part of this process. From a sample of 87 communities surveyed by MAG during 2015–2016, 75% presented evidence of contamination in the community itself or in areas regularly used for livelihood activities such as agriculture, hunting, or traveling to adjacent villages. Based on 2015 census data, this sample represents just under 15% of communities in Kayah state. In August 2015, MAG began risk education in Kyaukkyi township in East Bago region.[26]

UNHCR implemented risk education in three townships in Kayah state.

AAR implemented risk education in one township in Kayin state.[27]

ICRC-trained National Society volunteers conducted sessions for 700 people living in areas affected by mines/ERW of Kachin state on methods of self-protection. In 2016, ICRC held discussions with the army on ways to address weapon contamination through support for humanitarian demining.[28]

In September 2016, Deputy Minister of Defense Maj Gen Myint Nwe stated that the Tatmadaw is working to educate people about the danger of landmines.[29]

[1] Myanmar is divided into states and regions. States are the “home area” of ethnic groups. Other areas, which are not identified with a specific ethnic group, are administrative regions. 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 Landmine 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 September 2015 and data from other informants from January 2008 through September 2015.

[3] Pascal Simon, “Landmine and Explosive Remnants of War Victims Survey in Kachin State and Kayah State, Myanmar,” Danish Refugee Council/Danish Demining Group, 6 March 2015, pp. 7, 14, &18.

[4]Situation Analysis of Southeastern Myanmar,” Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU), Peace Support Fund, September 2016. MIMU is a service to the UN Country Team and Humanitarian Country Team, under the management of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.

[5] See, for example, N. 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 M. Thar Lay, “Mandalay workers uncover WWII bomb,” Myanmar Times, Vol. 23, No. 455, 26 January–1 February 2009.

[6] See, for example, unexploded aerial bomb allegedly from armed conflict in Kachin State in Waingmaw Township in October 2016. “UPDATE REPORT: Gidon Post Bombarded by Burma Airforce,” Free Burma Rangers, 7 October 2016.

[7] Roger Fasth and Pascal Simon, “Mine Action in Myanmar,” Journal of Mine Action, Issue 19.2, July 2015.

[8] See, for example: At the Union Peace Conference 21st Century Panglong, Daw Wint Wah Tun of the National League for Democracy said of her Shardaw township, Kayah state, “local people do not feel secure as landmine fields pose a threat to their way of life.” “Union Peace Conference—21st Century Panglong continues,” Global New Light of Myanmar, 2 September 2016.

[9]C-in-C Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing holds talks with UN Chief, diplomat,” Global New Light of Myanmar, 1 September 2016.

[10] “Youth Empowerment: Myanmar’s young people want an active role in the running of their country,” Mizzima Weekly, 9 June 2016, p. 22.

[11]Situation Analysis of Southeastern Myanmar,” Myanmar Information Management Unit, Peace Support Fund, September 2016.

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

[13] Interview with Aksel Steen-Nilsen, NPA, Yangon, 3 April 2015; and email, 25 May 2015; and email from Melissa Andersson, NPA, 2016.

[14] Email from Greg Crowther, Regional Director South and South East Asia, MAG; and Kelly Tsanova, Country Director, Myanmar, MAG, 6 October 2016.

[15] Responding to a parliamentary question, Deputy Minister of Defense Maj-Gen Myint New stated on 25 August 2016 that mine clearance was underway in some parts of Kayin state. “Amyotha Hluttaw passes maritime territory and sea boundaries law,” Global New Light of Myanmar, 26 August 2016. See also, Htoo Thant, “Tatmadaw insists landmine use kept within reasonable minimum,” Myanmar Times, 13 September 2016.

[16] Landmine Monitor interview with former military officer, 12 October 2016, Yangon. The precise date of the clearance is uncertain.

[17] Email from Josephine Dresner, Project Manager, MAG Myanmar, 22 August 2016.

[18] Email from Melissa Andersson, NPA, Yangon, 17 August 2016.

[19] “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.

[20]3W Countrywide Mine Action Organizations,” UN Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU), September 2016. The six organizations were AAR, Catholic Relief Services, DCA, MAG, HALO, and UNHCR. Many other organizations were listed as implementing partners.

[21] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015,” p. 344.

[22] Responses to a Monitor 2015 Risk Education Questionnaire by Roger Fasth, Operations Manager, DRC/DDG, 14 August 2015; by Nay Myo Linn, Project Officer, CRS, 16 August 2015; by Kelly Tsanova, Project Manager, MAG, 22 August 2015; and by Bjarne Ussing, Country Director, DCA, 12 October 2015.

[23] Accreditation standards exist within the Myanmar Mine Action Standards, but have not been approved by the authorities. UNICEF has developed a standardized set of risk education messages.

[24] Some risk education providers noted when responding to the 2015 Monitor Risk Education Questionnaire that they received clearance requests from some communities while delivering risk education.

[25]3W Countrywide Mine Action Organizations,” UN MIMU, September 2016.

[26] Email from Josephine Dresner, MAG Myanmar, 22 August 2016.

[27]3W Countrywide Mine Action Organizations,” UN MIMU, September 2016.

[28] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015,” p. 344.

[29] Htoo Thant,  “Tatmadaw insists landmine use kept within reasonable minimum,” Myanmar Times, 13 September 2016.