Fifty-three children released by Myanmar army

By Mizzima
30 November 2015
Fifty-three children released by Myanmar army
Boys wearing white shirts, released from the Myanmar army, sit behind military officers during a ceremony to handover discharged minors in Yangon, Myanmar, 18 January 2014. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

The Government of Myanmar today released 53 children and young people who have been recruited and used by the Armed Forces. With this latest release, the total number of children discharged in 2015 reached 146 according to a UN Statement on 30 November.
Since June 2012, when the Myanmar government signed a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations, 699 children have been released by the army. The UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) on Grave Violations against Children welcomes this discharge while stressing the need for the Government of Myanmar to continue making every effort to end the recruitment and use of children in its armed forces.
“Today’s release is the result of continued efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw to put an end to the harmful practice of recruiting and using children. I am delighted to see these children and young people returning to their homes and families,” says Renata Lok-Dessallien, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar and co-chair of the CTFMR. “We are hopeful that institutional checks that have been put in place and continued efforts will ensure that recruitment of children will exist no more”.
The CTFMR called on the Government to accelerate essential remaining steps, particularly by adopting legal measures in the re-drafted Child Law that are necessary to prohibit and criminalize use and recruitment, whether committed by military personnel or civilians,  reinforcing the age assessment procedures within the military recruitment process, and including the prevention of violations against children in the military curriculum.
Since the signature of the Joint Action Plan, important actions have been taken, namely the centralisation of the recruitment, and the signature in September of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
"The signature of the protocol is a crucial step towards a child-free army”, says Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar and Co-Chair of the CTFMR.  “Now it is urgent that Myanmar ratifies the Protocol. Along with the review and the adoption of the revised Child Law, this would be one of the most important legacies the outgoing parliament has the opportunity to leave to new generations in Myanmar.” 
In 2007, in addition to the Tatmadaw, seven non-state armed groups in Myanmar, were named on the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. 
The UN has started a dialogue with several of these seven ethnic armed groups to discuss the possibility of signing action plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children under 18.  “We call on all those listed in the Secretary-General report to commit to ending the recruitment and use of children and welcome the opportunity to work with them to bring lasting peace in Myanmar”, said Renata Lok-Dessallien. “Children don’t belong in the military, and all parties have the duty to end children’s suffering from on-going conflicts in Myanmar”, added Bertrand Bainvel.
In addition to the Tatmadaw, there are seven non-state armed groups listed by the UN Secretary-General as being “persistent perpetrators” in the recruitment and use of children in Myanmar. They are the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council (KNLAPC), Karenni Army (KA), Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).