Victoria Milko had seen firsthand the impact landmines can have on ordinary people in Myanmar from her time reporting there years ago. When her social media started filling with photos of mangled limbs and bodies — and horrific stories about how the person had encountered a mine or unexploded ordnance in Myanmar — she knew something had changed for the worse.
She and David Rising gathered the latest data from UNICEF, which was incomplete, and tracked the toll for months until there was clear evidence of the rising toll and one even more heartbreaking statistic: the drastic increase in child victims.
The use of mines has soared since the military seized power from the democratically elected government in February 2021, and armed resistance has skyrocketed. They are being planted on all sides.
A courageous colleague in Myanmar started tracking down people who had stepped on mines, lost families to mines, etc. He tapped his network and spoke to victims, families of the dead and parents of small children who had stepped on mines. Additionally, the team was able to get former military members and others in the country to share with AP how civilians are used as human shields and how groups reuse mines they claim to have cleared. He also got in touch with Tatmadaw defectors and an anti-military militia group that confirmed use of landmines by them and other anti-military militias.
Our Myanmar colleague also got in touch with Tatmadaw defectors through a well-established defector network we’ve utilized for past stories, and an anti-military militia group that confirmed use of landmines by them and other anti-military militias as well. All interviews were done with encrypted apps when possible. Chats with our Myanmar colleague were wiped from everyone’s devices after each day for his security.
It took months of reporting and extensive precautions to ensure the safety of everyone in Myanmar, but the result was the most authoritative look at the problem of landmines published in any outlet.
The story clearly shows that this will be an issue in the country for years to come. It has been shared widely by human rights groups, people in Myanmar and in the private government channels of those trying to resolve one of the world’s thorniest diplomatic issues.
For their work documenting the horror of landmines in one of the world’s most isolated countries, we are honored to award Milko, Rising and our colleague in Myanmar this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.
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