Reported cases of landmine casualties in Burma skyrocketed during the course of 2007, with civilians accounting for the vast majority of those injured or killed, says a report by an international landmine watchdog.
According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2008: Toward a Mine-Free World, 2007 witnessed at least 409 landmine related casualties in Burma, resulting in a confirmed 47 fatalities. In contrast, the previous year saw only 232 casualties and 20 deaths.
The contested district of Taungoo, in Pegu Division, accounted for nearly 60 percent of casualty figures for 2007, in cases where geographic specific data was available.
Recorded numbers are almost assuredly below actual figures, as no reliable system for data collection exists in the country.
For the year, Burma and Russia are singled out as the only two countries in the world to have employed new anti-personnel mines. All but nine of the known victims for 2007 were civilians.
Civilian casualties, for cases in which details are known, most frequently occurred while: foraging for forest and jungle produce or collecting wood (46), traveling (22), engaged in agriculture (19), portering (18), and during instances of forced labor (16).
The International Labor Organization, active in Burma, received a number of allegations from civilians regarding the Burmese Army's employment of civilians for forced landmine clearing operations; allegations consistent with information that Landmine Monitor independently collected.
Burma's Army has been chronicled to use mines to both dissuade villagers from returning to their homes and to prevent villagers from wandering beyond their isolated hamlets, given the situation at hand, according to rights groups active along Burma's borders in neighboring countries.
As for non-state armed groups, mines are often reputed to be one of the few weapons they have at their disposal to oppose the superior firepower of the Burmese Army – with the detonation of a mine sometimes serving no purpose other than to alert villagers to abandon their homes.
If unable to gain assistance from a nongovernmental organization, mine victims are often left to fend for themselves.
"The high cost of healthcare was the biggest obstacle to receiving treatment; ongoing conflict and travel limitations further hampered access to services," according to the report. Inadequate state facilities and investment into the healthcare industry are also said to blame.
Domestically, Myanmar Defense Products Industries, a state enterprise in Pegu Division, is known to produce non-detectable antipersonnel landmines. Landmine Monitor, however, also calls attention to the foreign supply of landmines in Burma, of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Russian and American make.
Among the non-state armed groups named by Landmine Monitor as using landmines during 2007, are the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the Karenni Army, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), the Monland Restoration Party and United Wa State Army (UWSA).
Landmines littering Burma's rural areas are concentrated along the country's borders with Thailand, India and Bangladesh.
Since independence in 1947, Burma's central authorities have intermittently come up against dozens of non-state armed groups, most of whom operate in border regions.
Burma is not a signatory to the 1998 Ottawa Convention, or Mine Ban Treaty as it is commonly known. China, India, Russia and the United States are also among those countries not party to the Convention.