Sunday, 17 November 2019

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UN praises Myanmar over child soldier issue

The United Nations on Monday praised the Myanmar government and army for its steps made toward ending the recruitment of child soldiers.

Photo: Thierry Falise“The signature of an action plan in June 2012 was a major breakthrough and I commend the Government of Myanmar for taking important steps to better protect children,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement.

While the UN noted in this most recent report that recruitment of children to the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar armed forces, continued, the number of new cases had in fact decreased and that 66 children had been released since the action plan was signed.

In February, 24 children were officially discharged from the army in Yangon. Speaking at a special ceremony to mark their release, Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF’s Representative in Myanmar, said that “a series of discharges just like this must accelerate in the coming months in order for the Tatmadaw to quickly achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment and full discharge of those that are under-18 in the armed forces.”

According to the Myanmar government, more than 500 children were rejected for military service in 2012.

“There’s a momentum to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers in Myanmar,” said Zerrougui. “Challenges remain though and cooperation between the Government, the UN and partners on the ground is crucial to ensure that lasting progress is achieved.”

The use of children in armed combat is not limited to government troops and the UN have also appealed to the seven rebel ethnic groups around the country to release all under-age troops and to stop child conscription.

In January, eight child soldiers captured and held as prisoners of war by the Kachin Independence Army were released.

Following their release, Richard Clarke, Director of Child Soldiers International, said that, “Political reforms have led to some progress in the security and human rights situation in Myanmar. The government and the international community need to ensure that protection of children in armed conflict is provided the highest priority in this reform agenda.”

In 2002, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report named Myanmar as the country with the highest amount of child soldiers in the world. HRW announced in a March 2012 report that thousands of boys still serve in Myanmar’s national army, with children as young as 11 forcibly recruited off the streets and sent into combat operations for both the government and armed rebel groups.

International Law prohibits children under 15 from being recruited—to do so is recognized as a war crime by the International Criminal Court.

Related articles:
  1. UN welcomes release of 24 child soldiers
  2. Eight child soldiers freed in Kachin State, says ILO

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