Made of plastic, metal or other materials, landmines are weapons meant to seriously maim, injure or kill their target. An explosive device, sometimes filled with shrapnel, landmines are responsible for over 1 million people worldwide having been killed or maimed.
Between 1918 and 1939, landmines and the use of the anti-personnel mines became more popular among militaries and war strategists and were widely used throughout Poland, Russia and Korea. In this time period, the use of landmines was controlled and targetted at soldiers and military operations. As such, landmines can be classified in two categories: anti-personnel landmines and anti-tank landmines. Anti-personnel (AP) landmines were mainly developed to prevent enemy forces from reusing or removing anti-tank mines. However, in the 1960’s AP landmines became a more popular and freely used weapon.
In the early 1990’s it was estimated that Cambodia had 8-10 million landmines scattered throughout the country; more than one for every man, woman, and child. Mines had been laid during Cambodia’s decades-long war by the Cambodian army, the Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge, the non-communist fighters and United States forces. Having been placed by different forces and not strictly against soldiers, landmines actively constrict and endanger citizens. In addition to acting defensively such as to protect newly won ground or to contaminate abandoned areas, landmines are also laid in an attempt to defend towns, villages and supply routes from attack. Being a strategic weapon, landmines are often used to defend military or rebel positioning, channelling the movement of people and/or vehicles, defend socioeconomic targets (bridges, dams, oil, gas and water pipelines, etc.), and cause chaos, terror and economic dislocation (source).
At such random use and impulsive placement, minefields were and still are relatively unplanned and therefore extremely hard to predict. Not only did this conflict and chaos drastically affect citizens in the 1990’s, it continues to have a large impact on current populations of the areas. But, how?
Causing unspeakable damage, landmines do not surrender or stop working once a conflict ends and were once described as the ‘perfect soldier’ by a Khmer Rouge general: “Ever courageous, never sleeps, never misses.” Cambodia is just one example of how a conflict can leave a deadly trail of unexploded bombs and landmines. Having been placed erratically, unexploded landmines are left in rural areas, villages, crops and along transportation routes, continually threatening lives and livelihoods.
Even decades after conflicts, landmines make anyone who strays into a minefield vulnerable and with most landmines unmarked, it is even more dangerous. Currently, there are an estimated 110 million AP landmines still in the ground and another 100 million stockpiled around the world. The worst affected areas include Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos, Bosnia, Croatia, Georgia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and South Sudan.
So, how do we get rid of them and what are our next steps as a global community?
**Stay tuned for more information and take action examples and ideas.
Written by: Keana Rellinger