Teenage boy steps on landmine, loses leg in Ponnagyun Township

A 16-year-old boy stepped on a landmine and lost his leg in Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun Township on Wednesday, and was undergoing treatment at Sittwe hospital at the time of reporting. 

Oo Ba Maung, who is ethnic Mro, was in the forest one mile west of Upper Myat Lay village when he stepped on the landmine at around noon, according to village administrator La Pyae Aung. 

“His right leg got dismembered from the knee down. His left leg was injured too. The patient is still conscious,” La Pyae Aung said, adding that Oo Ba Maung was taken to Sittwe in an ambulance. 

The location where the landmine blast occurred had previously seen fighting between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military, according to the administrator. 

A father and son were also seriously injured by a landmine in the same area last year, which went off while they were collecting bamboo, he explained.

A resident of Upper Myat Lay said that villagers rely on the forest for food, but they know going into the woods is accompanied by great risk. 

“We have to get bamboo shoots from the woods to eat. Then, someone steps on a landmine. We go to the woods to catch wild chickens, and someone steps on a landmine. It’s becoming quite a threat to live out here,” he said. 

Upper Myat Lay village is around 30 minutes drive from the Sittwe-Yangon highway in Ponnagyun. Although the military conducted some landmine clearance in the immediate vicinity of the highway, they have yet to clear mines from the forests that locals depend on.  

Although it has been nine months since clashes between the Arakan Army and the military stopped in the northern Rakhine State, residents say they are not yet secure due to the threats posed by leftover explosives. 

There have been 44 deaths and 82 injuries caused by weapons and landmines placed in the area during more than two years of fighting between the groups, according to data compiled by the Rakhine Ethnic Congress.

The clashes caused around 200,000 people to be internally displaced. The Myanmar military also kidnapped, tortured and filed charges against several locals they accused of being involved with the Arakan Army.

Locals say they are also threatened by the continued occupation of their region by the military, who are still stationed near many villages.

In Rathedaung Township in particular, military units stationed near at least four villages require residents to obtain permission to enter and exit the area, according to a report by the Rakhine State-based Development Media Group in mid-July.

The soldiers’ presence makes villagers afraid to tend to their farms and crops, according to a farmer interviewed by DMG for the report. 

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