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Land mines latest threat for Myanmar

May 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, May 15 (UPI) -- It's likely the land mine contamination in parts of Myanmar is too extensive for mapping, an Asian director for Human Rights Watch said.

A cease-fire between separatist rebels from Kachin and Myanmar forces collapsed in 2011. Fighting has since displaced an estimated 80,000 people, the U.N. humanitarian news agency IRIN reports.

Myanmar earned praised for political reforms that started with general elections in 2010. It's been criticized for falling short in other areas like human rights and national security, however.

Dr. Brang Sawng, in Kachin, told IRIN that over the last two years nearly 50 soldiers have had limbs amputated during surgery to treat land mine injuries.

"The No. 1 injury is caused by land mines, with both (government) troops and Kachin soldiers mistakenly stepping on their own mines," he said.

IRIN estimates there have been at least 84 deaths as a result of land mines in 2011, the last year for which figures are available.

Deputy Director for the Asian division at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said the extent of the contamination is unknown.

"These are weapons that will continue to maim and kill for years to come and I would be surprised if both sides are capable of mapping and following where they actually placed these mines," he said.

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