In early January 2023, I went to the cornfield as usual with my neighbours to collect corn and vegetables for our families’ meals. I noticed a round white object, roughly the size of my fist, near the field. Assuming it was a child’s toy, I smiled, imagining how happy my children would be if I brought it home. With smile on my face, I went to pick up the object,” recalls Sai Sar Aung, a 39-year-old corn farmer from Northern Shan State, Myanmar.

Suddenly, there was a noise loud enough for the whole village to hear. “I felt as if I was thrown into the air. When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on the ground, unable to move. I heard the commotion around me but could barely see anything. The pain in my hands was unbearable and I couldn’t open my eyes. At one point, I feared I might not survive.” The object Sai had found was not a toy. It was an improvised antipersonel landmine. He heard his wife crying and asking about his injuries. Someone said, “Sai is injured, both of his hands are shattered. His right eye is seriously injured.

Sai felt helpless and terrified, wondering who would take care of his family, for whom he is the sole breadwinner. Sai, is described by those who know him as a devoted husband and caring father to his two children. Sai spent almost two months in hospital before he was able to go home to his family.

Sai was fortunate that his injury happened close to his village and others came to his aid in less than a quarter hour and took him to a rural hospital who then transferred him to Lashio Peoples Hospital. A civil society organization helped provide some funds for his medical care and immediate family support, which saved them from crippling costs.

Sai is waiting for a prosthetic hand and worries for the future of his, and other, children, realising that even adults can mistake landmines for a child’s toy. “Our children are innocent and should not be exposed to such risks. I feel so worried that my children might repeat this accident. Thinking about that is more painful than my injuries. I still can’t believe I’ve lost my hands. Not long ago, I was using them to work and support my family. Now, I can’t work anymore and feel that I have become a burden to my family. My children are still young and going to school, while my wife takes care of me and is unable to work.

Join the nationwide art contest on theme of ‘the impact of antipersonnel landmines on my community’