efe-epaBangkok

The Ambassador of the European Union to Myanmar on Wednesday urged the southeast Asian country to take urgent action against landmines and sign the Ottawa Treaty.

Nine of Myanmar's 14 states were "heavily contaminated" with antipersonnel mines and other remnants of war, Kristian Schmidt said on International Mine Awareness Day.

Speaking at an official event in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, Schmidt said that the number of mine casualties in the states of Kachin, Rakhine and Shan, where the army is engaged in conflicts with ethnic guerrillas, "have gone up significantly over the past years."

The ambassador said that 337 mine casualties were reported in 2016 and 2017 and that at least one out of every four casualties was a child.

Schmidt pointed out that while laying a mine cost $3, removing it could cost the state up to $1,000.

He added that 80 percent of the victims were civilians, especially farmers, children, refugees fleeing from violence and displaced people returning to their homes after the end of conflicts.

"Let me therefore call on all sides - the government, the Tatmadaw and the ethnic groups alike - to do the right thing for the country, for unity, for peace and justice for the next generations: stop laying mines, ban them and let's start the clean-up for a peaceful and prosperous future," the EU ambassador said.

The Ottawa Treaty, another name for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, was signed in Dec. 1997 by 164 countries.

Myanmar is one of 35 countries not to have signed the treaty, alongside the United States, China, Russia, Iran and Israel, among others.