Myanmar Military speeds up release of children

YANGON, 25th September – The Myanmar Armed Forces (“Tatmadaw”) today released 109 children from the armed forces, demonstrating its continued commitment to professionalise its security forces, ensuring that they become and remain ‘child free’. The discharge, which was attended by Union Minister for Defence, Lieutenant General Wai Lwin, follows soon after the release of 91 children and young people in August 2014. To date a total of 472 children and young people have been discharged since the signing of an Action Plan in June 2012, to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. Today’s release of 109 children is the largest of such discharges.

“The United Nations welcomes today’s release of a further 109 children and young people. We are witnessing an increasing number of children coming out of the Tatmadaw, indicating the accelerated efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw to put an end to the harmful practice of recruiting and using children,” said Ms. Renata Lok-Dessallien, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and co-chair of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children (CTFMR).

Since 2007, the Tatmadaw, as well as seven non-state armed groups, have been listed on the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. In response to this listing, the Government developed and signed an Action Plan with the CTFMR in June 2012, setting 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. 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,” said Mr. Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar and co-chair of the CTFMR.

The release comes ahead of the review of the Action Plan on Friday 26 September where the CTFMR and Government will take stock of progress made and identify remaining steps to end the recruitment and use of children by the Government armed forces. Among the primary issues that the CTFMR is looking for is the strengthening of the legal framework, the strict implementation of age verification procedures, and the reinforcement of accountability mechanisms to prevent further recruitment into the ranks of the Tatmadaw.

“Ending the recruitment and use of children in the armed forces is critical as Myanmar strives to strengthen the broader protection of its children and to guarantee their rights,” Mr. Bainvel concluded.


BACKGROUND

* All young people released were children under 18 at the time of the signing of the Joint Action Plan in June 2012.

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:

1. Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)
2. Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
3. Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)
4. Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council
5. Karenni Army (KA)
6. Shan State Army South (SSA-S)
7. United Wa State Army (UWSA)

ABOUT THE UN COUNTRY TASKFORCE ON MONITORING AND REPORTING (CTFMR) ON GRAVE VIOLATIONS AGAINST CHILDREN

United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1612 mandates the UN to establish UN-led CTFMRs in countries where there is verified evidence that Grave Violations against children are being committed by parties to a conflict, either by armed forces and/or by armed groups. The CTFMR is tasked with establishing a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) which documents, verifies and reports to the UNSC on Grave Violations against children.

The CTFMR is also mandated to provide a coordinated response to such grave violations. The CTFMR was established in Myanmar in 2007 and is co-Chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator and the UNICEF Representative in Yangon. The CTFMR in Myanmar includes relevant UN agencies (ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN OCHA, the UN RCO and WFP), Save the Children and World Vision.

HOTLINE
In November 2013, UNICEF supported the Myanmar Government to launch a nation-wide campaign to raise awareness on its population on its commitment to end use and recruitment of Children by Tatmadaw. As part of this campaign, and on behalf of CTFMR, UNICEF and World Vision are managing 2 hotlines (09-421166701 and 09-421166702) where anyone can alert and report suspected cases of children being recruited by the Tatmadaw.

For more information please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: (+95) 1 2305960-69 (Ext. 1446) arhodes@unicef.org
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m), ylwinoo@unicef.org.