The weapon, the type and origin of which are as yet unidentified, may be a remnant of fighting between junta and Arakan Army forces that forced people from their homes in the area in 2022
An explosive killed one child and put two others in critical condition when it detonated in a displaced persons’ camp in Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun Township, according to camp residents.
The camp, at which some 200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been sheltering since clashes broke out between junta and Arakan Army (AA) forces in 2022, is located outside of Yoe Ta Yoke village, some 40 miles northeast of the state capital of Sittwe.
Aung Myint, an IDP camp administrator, told Myanmar Now that the victim killed by the detonation of the unexploded ordnance, Nay Toe Hein, was 10 years old and that the two injured children were both six years old.
“Nay Toe Hein’s injuries were quite severe and he died upon arriving at the hospital. Myo Chit Oo was injured on the head and arms and is undergoing treatment at the Yoe Ta Yoke hospital. Myo Zaw Lin sustained injuries on his legs and genitals,” the camp administrator said.
The type of explosive that detonated in the camp is unknown.
According to IDPs who spoke on condition of anonymity, junta soldiers maintained a base at the Yo Ta Yoke railway station between August and November 2022, during which explosive weapons were regularly used in clashes between the the junta and AA forces.
The explosive that harmed the children was likely a remnant of weapons or ammunition used by the junta, according to the IDPs, but Myanmar Now has yet to confirm this supposition independently.
“Everyone’s just living in fear right now as remnant weapons like this could be anywhere. It’s especially dangerous for children as parents aren’t able to watch them all the time,” said a man in his 30s living in the camp.
The camp’s IDPs are mostly from Buddhaw, some five miles northwest of Yoe Ta Yoke, and neighbouring villages in Ponnagyun Township.
Fighting broke out in late 2018 between the Myanmar military and the AA, continuing until the two sides agreed to an informal ceasefire in November 2020. Armed clashes resumed in August 2022 but were halted by another informal truce within Rakhine State in November of that year.
The junta military swept for mines and other undetonated explosives along the Yangon-Sittwe highway in the early days of the truce. However, according to the chair of the Rakhine Human Rights Advocacy Association Myat Tun, the military failed to sweep in some areas where major battles had taken place.
“It’s a given that there are going to be explosives where they used to have bases. They should have swept those areas for mines,” Myat Tun said.
Khaing Thukha, a spokesperson for the AA, warned local civilians never to go near battle sites, junta bases or areas controlled by junta forces during a press conference on February 27 of this year.
The AA also called for civil society organisations to increase their efforts to disseminate information to civilians about landmines and unexploded ordnance.