International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekly Highlights: Child Soldiers Still Systematically Used in Burma

 

8-14 July 2013

 

Weekly Highlights

Child Soldiers Still Systematically Used in Burma

Last 7 July, the Burma Army demobilized 42 child soldiers, bringing the total to 108 discharged in the past 12 months. Although it is unclear exactly how many remain in its ranks, some estimates put the figure at 5,000. Thus, 108 represents just a fraction of the child soldiers employed by the Burma Army to engage in fighting and provide support to the wars being waged in ethnic areas.

It has been over one year since the Burma government signed an action plan with the UN to end recruitment and use of children in the armed forces by December 2013. The results, as Joe Becker of Human Rights Watch points out, are pitiful, "One year into the Burma-UN action plan, the Burmese military has failed to meet even the basic indicators of progress." A host of restrictions on access for the UN Task Force employed to implement this action plan have rendered that agreement almost worthless, as the army continues to use and recruit children for war. On four occasions, the UN Task Force was denied access to military sites believed to house child soldiers. Furthermore, the Burma Army refuses to grant access to the Border Guard Forces (BGF), an arm of the military that operates in many ethnic areas. There is no program within the BGF to identify and release child soldiers, nor to end recruitment. The BGF is under the direct command of the Burma Army and any measures towards solving this issue must include these forces.

Some of Burma's non-state armed groups also recruit and use child solders, albeit on a much smaller scale than the Burma Army. Burma's authorities also refuse the UN access to the non-state armed groups with whom the government has signed ceasefires. One such group is the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU). Yet the KNLA did offer to work with the UN, to cooperate in working towards an end of the use and recruitment of child soldiers, but the Burma government would not allow the UN Task Force to access the group.

While some steps have been made towards identifying and releasing some child soldiers, as seen in the 42 cases last week, there have been few moves towards ending the recruitment of children. Child Soldiers International (CSI), an international research and advocacy group on this issue, has found that many children are recruited into the Burma Army through intimidation and false promises in order to meet recruitment targets due to financial incentives and pressure from superiors on recruiters. This is embedded in military culture and is one of the root causes of the existence of child soldiers in the Burma Army. Neither the government, nor the Burma Army, has done anything about it. It is all very well releasing 42 children one week, but if 42 more children will be recruited the following week, the problem remains.

As UNICEF's representative in Rangoon, Bertrand Bainvel, stated, "Children should be in schools. They should be with their families. They shouldn't be in the military." The Burma government, as well as the Burma Army, must show a genuine will to release all child soldiers, and end their recruitment. Specifically, they must give the UN Task Force complete access to all military bases, including those of the BGF. It must also allow access to ethnic areas in order for the Task Force to meet and implement programs with non-state armed groups, as some like the KNLA have requested. There must also be a program aimed at tackling recruitment, including the motivation of recruiters to enlist children. These measures must begin now if the government wants to fulfil the plan of action signed last year. The international community must also pressure the Burma government to fulfil these promises by holding them accountable for the actions of the Burma Army and ensuring that they comply with it's international obligations. Otherwise, any claims of genuine reform hold no legitimacy.

 

News Highlights

President Thein Sein abolishes the border security forces, known as NaSaKa, in Arakan State

The Burma Army discharges 42 child soldiers

 

Inside Burma

The Upper House of Parliament agrees to join the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and Thein Sein signs the new Central Bank law

MPs say that Parliament will form a committee to review the 2008 Constitution during the current session

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Kyaw Kyaw Htun says the government has no plan to repeal the oppressive 1950 Emergency Provisions Act and the 1975 State Protection Law

Clashes between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army - North continue this week

The Karen National Liberation Army's 7th Brigade establishes a trading and tour company

Courts sentence four Muslims to seven years and life imprisonment following the religious violence in central Burma and 25 Buddhists to as many as 15 years in prison

Police crack down and sexually assault homosexuals in Mandalay

Authorities arrest a leading member of Generation Wave for his involvement in a campaign to release political prisoners in 2011

Members of the interim Press Council say they will resign if the Printing and Publishing Enterprise Bill is passed into law

Residents affected by the Letpadaung copper mine criticize the work of the committee tasked by the government with reducing the project's negative impacts 

 

Regional

 

Indonesia presses the Burma government to grant legal status to Rohingya

 

International

President Thein Sein starts a visit in the UK and France

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tells Burma to give Muslim Rohingyas full citizenship and to end religious violence

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr meets with President Thein Sein 

 

Opinion

The Military's Still in Charge
By Bertil Lintner
Foreign Policy

Reporters With Borders
By Francis Wade
Foreign Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latest from the Blog

 

Upper House of Parliament Must Reject the Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law

By Burma Partnership

 

Actions

TAKE ACTION! Write to Burma authorities to urge that all those responsible for the torture and death in custody of U Than Htun be investigated and prosecuted

TAKE ACTION! Write to Burma authorities about the sentencing of three defenders following their participation in peaceful protests against the Letpadaung copper mining project

TAKE ACTION! Ask US Congress to renew sanctions legislation on Burma

Around 200 farmers stage a protest in Rangoon calling for President Thein Sein and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to return land confiscated throughout the country

Statements and Press Releases

Kachin Organizations and Civil Society Groups Urge the United States Government to Renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act
By 30 Kachin Organizations and Civil Society Groups

British Parliamentarians Call on Government to Prioritise Human Rights During Burmese President Thein Sein Visit
By All-Party Parliamentary Group For Democracy In Burma

Prime Minister David Cameron Should Press President Thein Sein to Stop Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing
By Arakan Rohingya National Organisation and Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Myanmar: Press Council Threatens Resignation as Lower House Fails to Amend Dire Press Bill
By Article 19

Hague's Rose-Tinted View Of Burma Undermines Human Rights
By Burma Campaign UK

Think Everything's OK In Burma Now? - New Awareness Raising Campaign
By Burma Campaign UK

ပံုႏွိပ္ျခင္းႏွင့္ ထုတ္ေ၀ျခင္း လုပ္ငန္း ဥပေဒၾကမ္းအား BNI ကန္႔ကြက္
BNI Opposed to New Media Law
By Burma News International

Upper Burma Court Sentences Three Human Rights Defenders to Long-Term Imprisonment; Guards Intimidate Lawyer
By Burma Partnership and Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma

Burma: Ethnic Chin in Historic Hearing at the European Parliament
By Chin Human Rights Organization

CSW Urges UK to Put Human Rights at the Heart of Burmese President's Visit
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

First U.S. Companies Release Reports on Investments in Myanmar
By Earth Rights International

Burma: Sentencing of Human Rights Defenders Messrs U Aung Soe, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu 
By Frontline Defenders

Press Release on the Arrest of Wai Phyo
By Generation Wave

Burma: UK's Cameron Should Press President on Rights 
By Human Rights Watch

ကခ်င္ျပည္သူလူထုႏွင့္ အရပ္ဘက္လူမႈအဖြဲ႔အစည္းမ်ား ေတြ႔ဆံုညွိႏႈိင္းေဆြးေႏြးပြဲ သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Kachin civil society organizations

Burma's Plans to Expand Mawchi Tin Mines Risk Derailing Karenni Peace Process
By Molo Women Mining Watch Network

Statement on Abuse Perpetrated Against LGBT in Mandalay
By Myanmar LGBT Rights Network and PFLAG Myanmar

UK Must Insist on Commitments from Myanmar President on Minority Rights
By Refugees International

Upper House Must Not Approve Proposed Media Law in Its Current Form
By Reporters Without Borders

Appeal by Religious Leaders for Religious Harmony, Greater Attention to Peace, and Human Development
By Sitagu Sayadaw, Dr. U Pyinnyar Thiha, U Han, Archbishop Charles Bo, Rev. F.R. Mark Tin Win, U Aye Lwin, U Tin Myint

Press Statement 4/2013
By United Nationalities Federal Council

Press Statement 5/2013
By United Nationalities Federal Council

Reports

Political Prisoner Watch (Burma) – June 2013
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma

Human Rights Abuses Since Thein Sein Became President
By Burma Campaign UK

Thein Sein in His Own Words
By Burma Campaign UK

Thein Sein - President of Burma
By Burma Campaign UK

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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."