United Nations hails release of 109 child soldiers from Tatmadaw
The largest release of child soldiers from the Tatmadaw since an action plan on the issue was signed more than two years ago has been welcomed by the United Nations in a statement released in Yangon on September 25.
The release of the 109 children demonstrated the Tatmadaw’s continued commitment to professionalise its security forces and ensuring they become and remain “child free”, said the statement.
The development follows the release of 91 children and young people in August and brings to 472 the total discharged under the June 2012 action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, it said.
“The United Nations welcomes today’s release of a further 109 children and young people,” said UN resident and humanitarian coordinator, Ms Renata Lok-Dessallien, who also co-chairs the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children (CTFMR).
“We are witnessing an increasing number of children coming out of the Tatmadaw, indicating the accelerating efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw to put an end to the harmful practice of recruiting and using children,” Ms Lok-Dessallien said.
The government developed the action plan with the CTFMR in June 2012 in response to the Tatmadaw and seven non-state armed groups having been included on the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children since 2007, the statement said.
The plan sets out measures to end and prevent the use and recruitment of children.
“Today’s discharge is a result of intensified discussions between the Government and the CTFMR on how to speed up efforts to make the Tatmadaw child free,” said UNICEF country representative and task force co-chair Bertrand Bainvel.
“We commend the progress achieved so far, including the issuing of a new directive which seeks to prevent enrollment at battalion level, continued CTFMR access to military facilities and the setting-up of billboards nationwide to raise awareness that the recruitment of children - those under the age of 18 years - is illegal,” Mr Bainvel said.
The statement said a review of the action plan by the government and the task force on September 26 would evaluate progress and identify the remaining steps needed to end the recruitment of children by the Tatmadaw.
Apart from the Tatmadaw, the seven non-state armed groups on the UN Secretary-General’s list are the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Liberation Army, Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, Karenni Army, Shan State Army-South and the United Wa State Army.
A former child soldier carries his belongings as he leaves a military compound in Yangon after a ceremony releasing 96 children and young people from the Tatmadaw, in a file photo taken on January 18, 2014. Photo: Soe Than Win/AFP