Former child soldiers discharged by Tatmadaw
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.