Burma Army Releases 46 Child Soldiers
By Tin Htet Paing 14 March 2016
RANGOON — The Burma Army discharged another 46 child soldiers on Saturday, the first such release of 2016, the UN children’s agency Unicef announced over the weekend.
Unicef said in its press release on Saturday that it welcomed the latest discharge as one more positive step toward ending the involvement of children in Burma’s armed conflicts.
“The children and young people discharged will benefit from reintegration programs to help them re-start their lives and seize new opportunities for their own development and participation in the life of the country,” the statement reads.
The children and young people had all been under age 18 in 2012, when the Burmese government signed a joint action plan with the United Nations to address the issue of child recruitment. Those released over the weekend were handed over to their families at a ceremony in Rangoon, according to a report released in the state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Sunday.
“The Tatmadaw is committed to rid its ranks of underage soldiers,” the report quoted Maj-Gen Tauk Tun of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army), who was present at Saturday’s ceremony.
While the number of underage soldiers still serving in the Burma Army remains unknown, Unicef reported in its statement that 745 child soldiers have been released by the military in a total of 12 batches since 2012.
“Whilst the peace process moves forward, commitment to stop recruitment and use of children should be immediate,” Unicef urged in the statement.
In addition to the Burma Army, the UN secretary-general has named seven of the country’s ethnic armed groups as “persistent perpetrators” of underage conscription—the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, Karenni Army (KA), Shan State Army South (SSA-S) and United Wa State Army (UWSA).
The Burma Army has long faced accusations by both international and local human rights groups concerning rights abuses against civilians in conflict areas and recruitment of child soldiers. Activists have previously urged the government to establish a more expedient mechanism to rid the military’s ranks of underage recruits.