Myanmar junta troops are committing war crimes by laying landmines on a "massive scale" around villages with anti-coup fighters offering resistance, human rights organisation Amnesty International said to AFP today.
Fighting has ravaged many areas of the country since last year's coup, which sparked renewed clashes with ethnic rebel groups, as well as the formation of "People's Defence Forces" that are now battling the junta in large numbers. According to a local monitoring group, more than 2,000 people have been killed, and almost 15,000 arrested, so far.
Amnesty researchers visited Myanmar's Kayah State, situated near the Thai border, and interviewed landmine survivors and medical workers who had treated them, as well as others involved in various clearing operations.
The organisation said that it had "credible information" that the military had used mines in at least 20 villages, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.
They also claimed to have documented several instances where the military had laid mines around a church.
"Soldiers have placed landmines in people's yards, at the entrance of homes, and outside toilets… In at least one documented case, soldiers booby-trapped a house stairwell with a trip-wire improvised explosive device," Amnesty said.
Anti-junta group members were attempting to de-mine some areas, but the work was done "by hand with only rudimentary equipment and without any professional training," they added.
"We know from bitter experience that civilian deaths and injuries will mount over time, and the widespread contamination is already blocking people from returning to their homes and farmland," said Rawya Rageh, Amnesty's Senior Crisis Advisor.
Myanmar is not a signatory to the United Nations convention that prohibits the use, stockpiling or development of anti-personnel mines.
Its military has been repeatedly accused of atrocities and war crimes during decades of internal strife.
Military violence against the Rohingya minority in 2017 sent an estimated 750,000 people fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.
In March, the United States declared that the violence against the Rohingyas amounted to genocide, as well as clear evidence of an attempt to "destroy" them.
The Gambia brought Myanmar before the International Court of Justice in 2019, accusing the primarily-Buddhist country of genocide against the Muslim minority.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice is due to give its judgement on Myanmar's preliminary objections to the case later this week.
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