New Delhi (Mizzima) – The United Nations will send a team to Burma to push the military regime and ethnic rebels to cease in the use of children in their armed forces.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in a press conference on Tuesday in New York said the UN will send a team to assess details of the activities of the country taskforce and Burmese regime to end the use of children in the Burmese Army and ethnic rebel groups.
The announcement comes after the UN Security Council, on August 4, unanimously adopted a new landmark resolution on children and armed conflict and called upon Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to expand his "list of shame" on the recruitment and use of children in armed forces.
Burma is also included among the Secretary General’s list of countries that uses underage children in the armed forces.
Ban Ki-moon, as part of a June 1 report, said UN agencies and its partners are unable to effectively monitor the “grave violations” perpetrated against children by the Burmese Army and armed resistant groups because of the absence of an agreed action plan and access as well as security impediments.
“The severe restriction of access by the government to locations of concern continues to limit the ability of the country task force and its partners to monitor and report on grave violations being perpetrated against children by all parties to the conflict, despite the fact that the basic structures of the monitoring and reporting mechanism have been in place since February 2007,” noted the Secretary General’s report.
Meanwhile, Steve Marshall, Liaison Officer for the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Rangoon, said he welcomes the visit of a UN team and hopes it will prove useful in the activities of the UN task force in eliminating the use of children in both the state army and rebel groups.
“It will be useful and supportive to the country in assisting in establishing the structure and the plan,” Marshall told Mizzima on Thursday.
Burma and the ILO in 2007 agreed to set up a complaint mechanism on the use of child soldiers.
Marshall said over the past two years the ILO has received approximately 60 complaints from concerned relatives of underage children, among whom only a few have been reunited with their families.
“The reality is there has been some progress but the progress has been small. There are still a lot of things to be done,” added Marshall.
While the number of child soldiers seems to be difficult to accurately measure, some NGO’s estimated in 2002 that there were about 60,000 children recruited into the Burmese Army and about 7,000 into ethnic armed rebel groups.
Aung Myo Min, director of the Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), on Thursday told Mizzima that there has been no significant decrease in the use of children in the Burmese Army and rebel groups.
Aung Myo Min also called on the UN Security Council to initiate a time-bound program aimed at eliminating the use of children in all armed forces present in Burma.