The United States will provide US$3 million to Myanmar for landmine clearing projects under a move also aimed at supporting peace efforts and confidence-building between the government and ethnic groups, a senior State Department official said last week.
“The funding will be coming in a few weeks,” Mr Rick Barton, the assistant secretary of the department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilisation Operations, told The Myanmar Times in Yangon on March 22.
The funding will initially go towards demining work in Kayah State but support would later be extended to other affected areas, including Kachin and Shan states, said Mr Barton.
The funding will assist organisations involved in demining work, which Mr Barton said played a “critical” role in ceasefire and peace processes.
He said it was also important that the Tatmadaw and armed ethnic groups be involved in “delicate, expensive and dangerous” demining work.
The US stood ready to help bring all sides together in the demining effort, Mr Barton said.
On March 20, Mr Barton travelled with the US ambassador to Myanmar, Mr Derek Mitchell, to Kayah State, where landmines have been laid in all seven of its districts, reported a publication called Munitions Monitor 2012.
The trip provided an opportunity for Mr Barton and Mr Mitchell to meet the Kayah State Chief Minister, U Khin Maung Oo, other officials, representatives of four ethnic groups and landmine victims.
“They are all concerned about landmines,” said Mr Barton, who added that discussions during the trip had focused on “mine education and mine awareness” and the contribution that demining makes towards achieving peace and development.
Mr Barton said one of the most negative consequences of landmines is that they hinder freedom of movement.
“Landmines obviously are a huge threat to people being able to move freely within their societies,” he said.
Landmines are a “common challenge, concern and fear” for all sides in Myanmar, Mr Barton said.
On March 21, Mr Barton held talks in Nay Pyi Taw with officials from the ministries of Defence and of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, as well as members of parliament and party leaders.
Myanmar is among about 30 countries which have not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, also known at the Ottawa Treaty. Other countries yet to sign the treaty include the United States, China and Russia.