Landmines Create Fear Among Yephyu Township Farmers

Afraid of stepping on mines, locals in the Tanintharyi township are opting not to harvest their areca nuts.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Locals in Tanintharyi’s Yephyu Township have said they are afraid to harvest crops due to recent landmine explosions in the area.

Although it is the time of year in which areca nuts—which are chewed with betel leaf—are gathered, many farmers have opted to leave them on trees rather than risk stepping on a mine.

Since October, four landmine accidents have occurred around the areca palm gardens of Ahlae Sakhan village in Yephyu.

“It’s the season for areca nuts, but we cannot go and gather areca nuts on our farm. If we cannot gather [these] nuts on time, they will soon fall down,” local Mi Maw Chai told NMG. “Now we are afraid to go to our gardens. We don’t exactly know when we can go there. We depend on this business.”

She added that each farm—also locally called a garden—has at least 50 areca palm trees, with some boasting hundreds or even thousands of trees.

“We are afraid to pick areca nuts off the ground. Some farmers who have big garden need workers, but the workers are also afraid to work in the palm gardens,” Mi Maw Chai added.

Durian is also cultivated in Ahlae Sakhan, and soil is added to the base of trees to increase fruit production, but this is another task which is not being completed.

Ahlae Sakhan headman Nai Tin San told NMG that each landmine explosion has been about one mile apart, leading locals to fear that the area has more mines which could potentially be waiting. He said that the village has reported the incidents to various government departments, but that no officials had come to address the issue.

“Landmine victims stepped on landmines in their own gardens. Therefore, everybody is worried about uncovered landmines remaining in their garden. Nobody wants to go to work in their garden,” village resident Nai Tun Aung said.

A New Mon State Party (NMSP) soldier stepped on a landmine on October 15 while on patrol in the area, losing his leg, as did a villager working in a palm garden in Ahlae Sakhan nearly two weeks later. On November 10, another villager set off a landmine explosion on a road while driving his motorbike. Finally, on November 29, a villager stepped on a mine in his own garden, causing serious injury to his legs.

NMSP released a statement earlier this month alleging that an armed group had intentionally placed mines in the area to destabilize it and to place ethnic Mon locals under threat, which the NMSP condemned.

Troops from the NMSP and the Karen National Union have been deployed in the area affected by landmines, and Burma Army soldiers have also been known to be present.