MYANMAR’S treatment of the Arakan Rohingyas in its Rakhine State, which has so far only been repugnant, has assumed a new height as its security forces are reported to have used anti-personnel landmines, which is internationally banned, to incapacitate, if not kill, Rohingyas on their way of exodus, mainly to Bangladesh, and to stop them from getting back, once they will have crossed the border, into the land where they were born and have lived for generations. With the office of Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in the past week dismissing media reports that its army was planting landmines close to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, Amnesty International, however, said that it had documented a report on the use of landmines, by Myanmar’s security forces, based on interviews and eyewitnesses and analysis by its own weapons experts. Medical experts are also reported to have concluded from the nature of injuries of the Rohingyas, some being treated in Bangladesh hospitals, that it was caused by an explosive device that is powerful, directed upwards and located on the ground, consistent with what a landmine could cause. Border Guard Bangladesh officials are also reported to be saying that Myanmar army was using landmines.
The use of anti-personnel landmines by Myanmar has brought about another low in the already horrific situation that the Rohingyas face in Rakhine State. An indiscriminate use of the deadly weapon at high trafficked paths around the border has put the lives of ordinary people at enormous risk. Security forces in Myanmar are using landlines, as is inferred by many, also to stop the Rohingyas who have already crossed the border into Bangladesh from making trips back across the border to bring supplies or to help other victims to cross. No army, keeping to international law, can come with arms within five kilometres of any other country, but Myanmar security forces are supposedly doing so. Besides, the Mine Ban Treaty, which was adopted in September 1997 and which came into force in March 1999, prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. But Myanmar security forces are planting landmines unlawfully and ordinary people have already been maimed because of this. Myanmar’s deputy minister of defence was reported to be saying in September 2016 that the army continued to use landmines in internal armed conflicts.
In such a situation, the international community, especially the forum of world leaders, the United Nations, have a lot to do to, along with pressuring Myanmar authorities to stop the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingays, stop Myanmar from continuing with the abhorrent practice. The United Nations also has to look into the source of the landmines and take appropriate action if the landmines are found to have been sourced from other countries. The international community, which has been putting out a call for a world free of anti-personnel mines for long, must respect the rights of landmine survivors to a fulfilling life.
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