This article examines current debates for and against Humanitarian
Mine Action (HMA) in Myanmar. The analysis, based on interviews with key local,
national, and international actors involved in HMA, reveals why so many of
them regard the mapping and removal of “nuisance” landmines as posing a security
threat to the peace process. (Landmines deny people access to territory;
when conflict ends, these landmines no longer serve a strategic purpose and thus
become a dangerous nuisance.) These same debates also shed light on the growing
role risk management approaches now take in Myanmar as a response to decades
of authoritarian misrule by a succession of military regimes. The landmines, although
buried in the ground, actively unsettle such good governance initiatives
and the neoliberal development projects to which they are often linked, most often
by reterritorializing military, humanitarian, political, and economic authority in
overlapping and conflicting ways at multiple scales. The findings reveal why HMA
actors resist labeling the crisis landmine contamination poses to civilians as a “crisis”
that requires immediate humanitarian action.
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