Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Myanmar releases child soldiers bowing to international pressure

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Myanmar, the fledgling Asian nation has freed 42 children and young people from its armed forces. Myanmar had been under increasing international pressure to do so. Formerly run by the military, the country had been slow to halt the recruitment of children into its military.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Ashok Nigam, the United Nation's resident coordinator in Myanmar said, "We are very happy for the 42 children and their families today but we must accelerate efforts so that many more children benefit from release."

Thirty-four of those freed were younger than 18 years of age, while the remaining eight were young people who had been recruited as children.

Myanmar had been making slow progress in discharging children from its military, releasing 42 children in September 2012 and a further 24 in February following an agreement with the UN.

There are no conclusive figures on how many children are now serving in Myanmar's large military. According to the United Nations' children's fund UNICEF, the army has released over 520 children since 2006.

Human Rights Watch earlier this year had said that Myanmar had not been keeping its promise to free child soldiers.

Burma and the U.N. signed a Joint Action Plan in June 2012, in which the Burmese government and military committed to ending all recruitment and use of children in the armed forces by December 2013. In spite of clear benchmarks, the military had failed to fulfill its obligations under the plan.

"One year into the Burma-U.N. action plan, the Burmese military has failed to meet even the basic indicators of progress," Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director said. "Unless Burma kick-starts the process immediately, it will be too late to make good on its pledge to end all recruitment and use of child soldiers by the end of the year."

The U.N. secretary-general released his third report last May to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in Burma. The report noted some progress made by the Burmese military, but demonstrated that cooperation has been insufficient.

The report indicates that the International Labor Organization has verified 770 cases of underage recruitment during the reporting period of April 2009 through December 2012, including children as young as 10 years of age. The actual number is almost certainly higher. Only 66 children had been released from government forces in the six months between June 2012, when the action plan was signed, and January 31, 2013.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)