For­mer child sol­diers dis­charged by Tat­madaw

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NICK BAKER n.baker@mm­

Sixty-eight for­mer child sol­diers were re­leased by the Tat­madaw last week, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of dis­charges to 800 since the govern­ment com­mit­ted in 2012 to co­op­er­ate with the UN to rid the mil­i­tary’s ranks of mi­nors.

A GROUP of 68 for­mer child sol­diers was freed by the Tat­madaw late last week.

The Septem­ber 9 dis­charges were the first of their kind un­der the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led govern­ment and bring the to­tal to 800 re­leases since a roadmap on end­ing the use of chil­dren in the army was put for­ward in 2012.

Thir­teen of the 68 for­mer child sol­diers were con­sid­ered out­side the 800 tally as they were re­cruited as chil­dren but al­ready adults by the time the roadmap was signed.

The for­mer child sol­diers will take part in a se­ries of rein­te­gra­tion pro­grams to help them set­tle back into so­ci­ety and restart their lives.

But sev­eral United Na­tions of­fi­cials are pres­sur­ing the govern­ment to in­crease ef­forts to fully end the use of chil­dren in the coun­try’s armed forces.

“We call on the govern­ment to ac­cel­er­ate es­sen­tial re­main­ing steps, par­tic­u­larly by clearly ban­ning use and re­cruit­ment of chil­dren in the soon-to-be-adopted na­tional Child Law, fur­ther re­in­forc­ing age as­sess­ment pro­ce­dures within the mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment process, and in­clud­ing the pre­ven­tion of vi­o­la­tions against chil­dren in the mil­i­tary cur­ricu­lum,” said Ber­trand Bain­vel, coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF).

State me­dia re­ported on Septem­ber 10 that “ac­tion had been taken against 81 mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and 402 per­son­nel of other ranks in con­nec­tion with the re­cruit­ment of chil­dren”.

The Myan­mar Times could not ver­ify this claim or the na­ture of the “ac­tion” taken against them.

A March re­port by NGO Child Sol­diers In­ter­na­tional said that “mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and civil­ian bro­kers con­tinue to use de­lib­er­ate mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, in­tim­i­da­tion, co­er­cion and en­tice­ment to ob­tain new re­cruits, in­clud­ing chil­dren”.

“Civil­ian bro­kers have fre­quently re­cruited boys un­der false pre­tences, of­ten of­fer­ing them a dif­fer­ent job, such as a driver,” the re­port said.

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, the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army, the Karen Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, the Karen Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army Peace Coun­cil, the Karenni Army, the Shan State Army South and the United Wa State Army.

The Myan­mar Times un­der­stands that UN agen­cies have be­gun a di­a­logue with sev­eral of th­ese groups to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of sign­ing ac­tion plans to end the re­cruit­ment and use of chil­dren.

Child Sol­diers In­ter­na­tional ma­te­rial stresses that “mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment of chil­dren, whether or not they are re­cruited will­ingly, sub­jects them to se­vere risks, jeop­ar­dises their ed­u­ca­tion and long-term well­be­ing, and vi­o­lates many of their fun­da­men­tal rights”.

Two hot­lines are avail­able for any­one to alert and re­port sus­pected cases of child re­cruit­ment or use by the Tat­madaw. The hotline numbers are 09421166701 and 09-4211667020.

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