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Myanmar failing to demobilize child soldiers: HRW

Myanmar has failed to make progress in ending its use of child soldiers nearly one year after signing an agreement with the UN, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report dated May 29.

Photo: cfob.orgThe New York-based rights group’s criticism comes only one week after the UN had commended the government for taking steps to end the recruitment of underage soldiers in Myanmar.

In June 2012, Myanmar and the UN signed a Joint Action Plan in which Naypyitaw and its armed forces committed to ending all recruitment and use of children in the armed forces by December 2013.

“Despite clear benchmarks, the military is failing to fulfill its obligations under the plan,” HRW said.

“One year into the Burma [Myanmar]-UN action plan, the Burmese military has failed to meet even the basic indicators of progress,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at HRW. “Unless Burma kick-starts the process immediately, it will be too late to make good on its pledge to end all recruitment and use of child soldiers by the end of the year.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) verified 770 cases of underage recruitment during the reporting period of April 2009 through December 2012, including children as young as 10. However, HRW said that the actual number is almost certainly higher, and notes that only 66 children have been released from government forces in the six months between June 2012, when the action plan was signed, and January 31, 2013.

“Nearly one year since the action plan was signed, the registration process is far from complete and progress in releasing children is unacceptably slow,” HRW said.

The May 29 report states that on at least four occasions, the Myanmar military has reneged on its commitments by refusing the UN access to military facilities to assess the presence of child soldiers.

“The Burmese army is not only dragging its feet in ending its use of child soldiers, but is also obstructing the UN from doing its job to verify its efforts,” Becker said. “On this basis alone the Security Council should hand the government a failing grade on its promised progress.”

HRW also noted that “most non-state armed groups in Burma included children in their forces, though in far smaller numbers than the government forces.”

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  2. UN welcomes release of 24 child soldiers

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