Landmines recent report on the ban the production and the use of landmines which appeared in the International Post caught my attention. Credit for the lucidly written report should be given to Ms Kazka, a colleague of mine, who illuminated the pertinent issues involved in the controversy revolving the production of landmines. Although the Philippines is fortunate enough not to have experienced the anguish of states like Afghanistan and Bosnia, we as a nation, averse at atrocities brought about by warfare, should contribute to the advancement of this noble cause of banning the production, the use and the de mining of landmines. As Ms Kazka reported, each day landmines kill or wound an estimated 75 people worldwide. Ninety percent of these victims are civilians.
Among the victims may be a teenage girl gathering firewood in Cambodia. A grandfather herding sheep in Afghanistan. Or a boy running across an empty field in Angola. What makes antipersonnel mines so abhorrent is the indiscriminate destruction they cause. Mines cannot be aimed.
They lie dormant until a person or animal triggers their detonating mechanism. Antipersonnel mines cannot distinguish between the footfall of a soldier and that of a child. Those who survive the initial blast usually require amputations, long hospital stays, and extensive rehabilitative services. These people do not usually recover from the psychological strain that the explosions cause. Moreover, they are discriminated by people in their respective society and are considered lower class people. Vivid images of the leg-less people were described in detail by the report In Cambodia alone there are over 35, 000 amputees injured by anti-personnel landmines -- and they are the survivors.
Many others die in the fields from loss of blood or lack of transport to get medical help. Mine deaths and injuries in the past few decades total in the hundreds of thousands. Landmines are now a daily threat in Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Chechnya, Croatia, Iraq, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Somalia, and dozens of other countries. Mines recognize no cease-fire and long after the fighting has stopped they continue to maim or kill. Mines also render large tracts of agricultural land unusable, wreaking environmental and economic devastation. Refugees returning to their war-ravaged countries face this life-threatening obstacle to rebuilding their lives.
Leading producers and exporters of antipersonnel mines in the past 25 years include China, Italy, the former Soviet Union, and the United States. More than 50 countries have manufactured as many as 200 million antipersonnel landmines in the last 25 years. According to the latest count, more than 350 different types of antipersonnel mines exist. And as technology advances, more and more innovative ways of producing and distributing landmines have emerged.
An example of which is a land mine made with a plastic shell. The detonation of this is virtually impossible since metal detectors would not detect this type of landmine. Another innovation is the remotely delivered mines. These are mines that are usually disseminated from an aircraft, making an accurate mapping, recording, and marking of these mines impossible.
There are indeed efforts to de mine the landmines, which are scattered around war torn regions. But the means to de mine them have remained primitive at best. Demining technology has not caught up with the advances in mine manufacturing technology but a number of processes are now being developed. Such methods may still be many years away from reliable application in the rice paddies of Cambodia, mountains of Afghanistan and dense vegetation of Mozambique. Demining technology still relies heavily on human de miners.
Without going to the details, such means is dangerous, time-consuming and costly work. The cost of producing a landmine is approximately USD 3. 00-30. 00 whereas he approximate expense to de mine one landmine hovers around USD 3, 000. 00.
Even if no more mines are ever laid, they will continue to maim and kill for years to come. Bold steps must be taken now to save future generations of innocent civilians. The Philippines should aid landmine victims especially in Cambodia. The success of Cambodia, with the aid of its ASEAN brothers, in alleviating itself from the outrages of its strife-torn past speaks well of ASEAN unity. It also speaks well of the desire of the Philippines to integrate fully Cambodia into the international community by helping Cambodia address its past. Empowered with this truth and abhorring the death and suffering of innocent civilians, I am urging our government to lobby for the signing of the treaty to the states that have a direct influence on the success of the treaty, the US and China.
With the aggregate support of these two superpowers, the International Treaty to Ban Landmines can have a fighting chance to survive. If these two superpowers have signed the treaty, then the treaty would gain more leverage in influencing other belligerent states to do so. The goal of totally obliterating all the landmines in the world is certainly far. But, if the world states stop producing and distributing their landmines and start destroying whatever they have instead, then the poor people who have nowhere to go to other than their warn-torn village can have at least the peace of mind that they are walking on a safer future.