(WNN) Yangon, BURMA/MYANMAR, SOUTH-EASTERN ASIA: In a concerted effort to stop the continued use of child soldiers by the Myanmar Armed Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, 42 child soldiers were released back to their families, and/or responsible ‘friends of family’ as coordinated efforts with the UN and local authorities is making progress to bring protective rights to children who, most often, have had little to no advocates.
Facilitated by the Resident Coordinator’s office in Yangon along with UNICEF, the release seeks to bring the message found inside the 2005 UN Security Council Resolution 1612 as a goal for an established policy where sustainability can finally reach into the region. Discharged during a formal ceremony before the Myanmar Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Social Welfare, Relief, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, along with other senior officials from the Tatmadaw as well as the UNICEF task force and other partners, the government has assured the task force that child soldiers will be released from armed services duty in the region.
The goal of the Action Plan is to fully reintegrate forced and voluntary child soldiers back into their home communities.
“Through today’s discharge and by moving away from recruiting new children, the Myanmar Government and its armed forces continue to demonstrate their desire to end this deeply saddening practice” said regional UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel. “The Action Plan continues to be a unique opportunity to – once and for all – ensure that the Tatmadaw is a child-free armed force and is removed from the annex of the Secretary-General report which lists Parties to the conflict that recruit and use children.”
To reach the goal following the tenants of protection for all children affected by war, as outlined by the UN Security Council Resolution 1612, the action plan for the children’s release includes full cooperation with UN monitoring teams, who are set to receive open access to all military facilities in the region. Sensitization training programs with Myanmar’s military troops covering the issues of human rights, as well as the special needs and protection of children, will also be part of the Action Plan.
“This discharge is the expression of a renewed commitment by the Government of Myanmar to ensuring UNSC 1612 is upheld as part of the current transition towards reform, good governance and inclusion,” says Ashok Nigam UN Resident Coordinator in the region. “We expect the Tatmadaw will now be in a position to speed up the release of all children. We are very happy for the 42 children and their families today but we must accelerate efforts so that many more children benefit from release.”
“All parties recognize this is about the future of Myanmar. No child should have to endure the hardship of being taken away from their families, friends, schools and communities” continued Resident Coordinator Nigam. “Nothing justifies the recruitment of children in armed forces. An army is not a place for a child to grow up.”
Some child soldiers have ‘voluntarily’ signed up with the Tatmadaw. Those who are in this category have been persuaded to be part of the Myanmar army at locations like recruitment office branches in railway stations used to recruit soldiers. Others have been forced to join the Tatmadaw by abduction as orphans, or those children who have been picked up during military operations during conflict.
Girls as well as boys have been abducted for the use of the military without any formal military training or procedure. Incidences of children being picked up as a form of retaliation by the Tatmadaw during conflict events has also been reported.
“The country task force noted that the majority of boys recruited were between the ages of 14 and 17 years,” said a May 2013 UN Security Council report. “However, at least 60 cases of underage recruitment during the reporting period related to children between the ages of 11 and 13. Children as young as 10 years old have also been reported to have been recruited in the Tatmadaw,” continued the
Since the signing of the Action Plan agreement child military recruiting is continuing but also now showing a decrease.
For more information on this topic link to:
“Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Myanmar,” UN Secretary General Report to the UN Security Council, May 1, 2013;
“UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) [on children in armed conflict,” Refworld release, UN Security Council, July 26, 2005.
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