Burma Army Releases 91 More Child Soldiers

By The Irrawaddy 1 August 2014

RANGOON — The Burma Army released another 91 children and young people from service on Friday, bringing the total number of minors allowed to leave the military in the past two years to 364, according to a United Nations agency.

The UN still lists Burma as one of seven countries worldwide whose national militaries recruit children, but the nominally civilian government that took power in 2011 has begun discharging child soldiers from duty. Seven ethnic armed groups active in Burma are also considered “persistence perpetrators” for recruiting child soldiers by the UN.

“The 91 children and young people arrived in Yangon earlier this week where, for many of them, they met their families for the first time after several years of separation,” the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), in a statement Friday.

It said the 91 people were all under the age of 18 and serving for the army in June 2012, when Burma signed an action plan to end the use of minors in the military.

The Burma Army, the government and the UN’s Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children collaborated on the release, the statement said.

“[T]he children and young people were provided with new civil documentation, health checks and one-to-one psycho-social debriefing sessions with trained social workers to identify their immediate and longer-term needs,” it said.

Unicef’s deputy representative to Burma, Shalini Bahuguna, said in the statement that the release was a “an important step in ending the recruitment and use of children in Myanmar Armed Forces.”

“As of today, a total of 364 children and young people have been released since June 2012,” Bahuguna said.