Pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militias and anti-junta local defence teams both operate in the area, and neither has admitted responsibility for setting the landmines
Four separate landmine explosions killed one teenager and injured eight civilians, including children, in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu Township on Saturday, according to local sources.
A resident of Nyaung Zin village in the Htan Kone area, 16 miles south of Kanbalu town, said five people in their village and three in the nearby village of Thin Paung Kyin had been wounded by the landmines.
Toke Paw, age 10, was with his brother Phyo Wai Aung and Paing Paing Soe, both 15, when they triggered a landmine while picking plums in the woods near Thin Paung Kyin, the villager said.
“One of them died on the spot and one has only recently regained consciousness,” said the villager, who asked to remain anonymous.
The deceased victim was Phyo Wai Aung. Toke Paw remains in critical condition, while Paing Paing Soe is now reportedly stable.
On the same day, three other landmines detonated in the vicinity of Nyaung Zin.
A married couple selling goods on their motorcycle triggered a landmine at the village entrance, and two other Nyaung Zin residents were injured when they left their house to see what was happening, stepping on a second mine. Later that afternoon, another local set off a third device outside of the village.
There are pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia forces stationed in Nyaung Zin village, but at the time of reporting, it was not clear who was responsible for setting the landmines or what type of explosive was used.
An officer of Kanbalu Township’s anti-regime People’s Defence Team—which are known locally as Pa Ka Pha—claimed that the landmines were set up by junta forces and their allies.
“Those landmines must have been set up so that we couldn’t get close to the village,” the officer said.
The Nyaung Zin villager who spoke with Myanmar Now, who is closely connected to a local Pyu Saw Htee group, blamed the Pa Ka Pha and other resistance forces for the placement of the explosives, noting that they had previously attacked the Pyu Saw Htee forces stationed there.
“They attacked the village with heavy weapons on January 25. They’ve become more daring recently and are now even setting up landmines near the village. The explosions were very close by,” he said.
The Pa Ka Pha officer rejected the allegation.
“They’re always looking for ways to put the blame on us,” he said, referring to the Pyu Saw Htee. “Of course they can’t let the people know that they set up landmines around the village, because they don’t trust the villagers either. That’s why so many people triggered those mines.”
Both the Pyu Saw Htee and local resistance forces have been known to set explosive devices to hinder enemy forces from entering villages under their control.
Another leader within the Pa Ka Pha explained that because so many villages in the Htan Kone region were occupied by the pro-junta militias, it would have been difficult for the resistance forces to mine the area in question.
“[We] can’t even get close to the village, never mind set landmines,” he said. “The entire village is now just an open field with trenches. Once we set foot inside, it would turn into a killing field. They’ve cleared a 1,000-metre radius around it. You could see a mouse cross the field, not to mention a person.”
Local residents claim the Pyu Saw Htee forces have now occupied more than 40 villages in Kanbalu and Kyunhla townships both in Kanbalu District, a stronghold of armed revolutionary forces. The military council declared martial law in 14 townships in Sagaing Region in February of this year, but the townships of Kanbalu District were not among them.