Children pay a heavy price as more landmines are laid
Tragic reality of landmines in Myanmar
Lar Luu, 8, was in the hospital for two weeks without saying a word. “The incident left him with selective mutism,” said his mother, Daw Lon Lynn, a farmer in the northern state of Kachin.
The explosion happened in January this year when her son and two of his friends were playing in a field near their home after finishing their class for the day. “We didn’t know there were landmines there,” she said.
Daw Lon Lynn explained that Lar Luu’s friend hit what he thought was a bottle, but it exploded - propelling the boys into the air. Sadly, the child who hit the explosive device that looked like a bottle died, while Lar Luu and his other friend were rushed to the hospital by car. Lar Luu was hospitalized for one month and his friend stayed three weeks in the hospital.
“My son suffered severe injuries,” said Daw Lon Lynn. “He had to undergo three operations. There were injuries to his hand, face and chest, and he lost some toes on his left foot and suffered a broken toe on the right foot.”
Today, although still bearing the physical and mental scars of the explosion, Lar Luu talks about the dangers of landmines, particularly to his friends. “I tell them if you see bottles lying on the ground, don’t touch them. If you touch them, they’ll explode and you’ll get hurt,” he said. “I am in less pain now, but my right leg still aches.”
Civilian casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war are rising in Myanmar, with children like Lar Luu making up 34 per cent of the victims. In 2022, there were 390 civilian casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the country, compared to 284 reported in 2021. Tragically, as conflict has intensified across Myanmar, indications are that more landmines are being laid.
UNICEF works with partners like the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to educate children about landmines and other explosive ordnance and provides support to families affected by landmines. Tun Tun, a DRC project officer who carries out Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) says the situation is becoming more challenging.
“One of the main problems children in this area are facing is that safe places, where they can be children and play, are getting narrower and narrower. They can’t enjoy their childhood.”
On the day of Lar Luu’s accident, Tun Tun phoned the hospital where Lar Luu and his friend were being treated and met their mothers to explain the support they would receive.
“The incident was traumatic for them,” said Tun Tun. “Lar Luu will need a lot of rehabilitation to recover fully, and the family isn’t financially well off.”
Moreover, apart from the trauma, the accident meant the boys missed their end-of-year exams. “Their education will now be delayed for a year as the exam was right around the corner when the explosion happened,” added Tun Tun.
Daw Lon Lynn knows her family is more fortunate than others who have suffered similar casualties. The support she received has made a huge difference.
“I have prayed for you with all my heart,” she said to Tun Tun. “Thank you for helping us during our difficult times.”
The International Day for Mine Awareness, marked annually on 4 April, reminds the world of the horrors of landmines and urges more countries to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The treaty is a legally binding international agreement that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines and obliges countries to de-mine, assist victims and destroy stockpiles. 164 states are party to the Mine Ban Treaty – 80 per cent of the world’s states. Myanmar has not signed the treaty.