Two civilians were killed and three injured last week by landmines in Rakhine State, where remnant explosives from previous fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and military council troops have become a constant threat to local people’s safety.
Than Shwe Maung, a villager from Minbya Township’s Hpar Pyo village, was killed by a landmine explosion at around 12:30pm on January 27 while on his way to gather wood from the jungle, according to a local source.
“I heard ‘boom…boom,’ then heard him shouting to his wife, ‘I’m in trouble!’ He got down the hill despite his severe injuries, then died at the foot of the hill,” the source said.
Local residents said regime forces were stationed about 100m from the hill where the explosion occurred.
“The junta troops were posted along the same hill. They were on the south side while the explosion happened on the north side. I think they planted the mine for their own protection,” another local resident said.
The previous morning, another explosion resulted in the death of a Rohingya child and the injury of three others near the village of Hpoe Khaung Chaung in Buthidaung Township. The deceased was 10-year-old Mamad Noor, and the injured were Jani Alam, 14; Uzi Ulah, 12; and Robi Ulhasaung, 12.
They were injured while on their way to gather firewood on a hill about a kilometre and a half from the village, according to village administrator Zaw Mir Hussein.
“The seriously injured one was taken to Maungdaw hospital,” he added.
Intense fighting between junta troops and the AA had taken place on the same hill three months before. Many locals forage the area for vegetables or timber and now fear for their safety after the recent mine explosion, said a local man who requested to remain anonymous.
“We go to the jungle to look for wild vegetables and cut down trees to earn some money. We are very worried now that an incident like this has happened. We don’t even dare to go to the jungle anymore because we are afraid there will be more landmines,” he said.
A similar incident was also reported earlier this month in Mrauk-U Township. On January 18, a man lost one leg and sustained severe injuries to the other after stepping on a landmine while gathering wood near the village of Na Din, according to local sources.
The junta and the AA have been observing a temporary ceasefire since November 26. Hopes that the junta would help clear the landmines during the suspension of hostilities were never fulfilled, according to local residents.