Myanmar released dozens of children and young adults from its armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, the United Nations today confirmed, welcoming also efforts to get the people away from guns and into classrooms.
The group of 91 people arrived in the capital, Yangon, earlier this week where, for many of them, they met their families for the first time after several years of separation, according to the office of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
“Such discharges must be accelerated so that the Tatmadaw can quickly achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment, and full discharge of those that are under 18,” said Shalini Bahuguna, Deputy Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the country.
Unlike the young people previously released, this group is expected to be enrolled in school immediately. A recent directive from the Ministry of Education ensures that children discharged from the forces can directly enroll in school and resume their studies at any point in the year. Previously, it took up to two months for children formerly associated with the armed forces to go back to school.
“Such directives set a precedent and show a Government-wide commitment to improve and accelerate care and reintegration for released children,” said Ms. Bahuguna.
“The military is not a place for a child to grow up,” she added, speaking on behalf of the UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) on Grave Violations against children.
The task force includes various UN agencies and programmes, as well as international non-governmental organizations, and is helping to oversee an action plan signed in June 2012 to break the ties between children and the forces. The action plan sets a timetable and measurable activities for the release and reintegration of children associated with Government armed forces, as well as the prevention of further recruitment.
Since the plan was singed, a total of 364 children and young people have been released, including today’s group.
Myanmar is one of seven countries – with armed forces or armed groups identified by the UN Secretary-General as committing grave child rights violations – working together with the UN system to end such violations in situations of armed conflict.
Under the action plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw, the Government has agreed to: identify all children in the Tatmadaw and ensure their unconditional release/discharge; facilitate the reintegration of released children into their families and communities; and facilitate processes that seek to end child recruitment by non-State armed groups, among other measures.
“I rely on the Government’s commitment to act on each of the points listed in the Action Plan, including mechanisms to end and prevent the recruitment of children and hold perpetrators accountable” said Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
“The international community should spare no efforts to support Myanmar to make the promise of the Action Plan a reality for the country’s children” Ms. Zerrougui added.
In March 2014, her office and UNICEF launched “Children, not Soldiers,” a campaign to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by government security forces in conflict by 2016.