The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/66/782-S/2012/261) issued on 26 April 2012.
The number of complaints of underage recruitment, including children under 15 years of age, continued to rise, from 194 in 2010 to 243 in 2011, reflecting an increased awareness of the age of recruitment by the Tatmadaw, and the existence of reliable vetting mechanisms, including the International Labour Organization forced labour complaints mechanism and community-based structures for complaints about underage recruitment. The Committee for the Prevention of Recruitment of Underage Children in Myanmar received more complaints than in previous years as a result of its extensive public awareness campaign. The vast majority of complaints in 2011 reflected recruitment in Yangon, Ayeyarwaddy and Mandalay regions.
Children continued to be recruited by the Tatmadaw. The majority of underage recruits interviewed after release stated that their recruiter had not asked their age, or had falsified age documentation for presentation at the recruitment centre. Reports continued to indicate that, in addition to children who were formally recruited into the Tatmadaw, children were also used by the Tatmadaw for forced labour, including as porters. In Kachin State, there were verified reports in late 2011 of children being used by the Tatmadaw alongside adults as porters on the front line.
Reports of recruitment and use of children by non-State actors in Myanmar also continued to be received. In 2010, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) split into two factions, with the majority joining the Tatmadaw as a border guard force, and the remainder allying itself with the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA). In 2011, with respect to both the DKBA border guard force and the separatist DKBA troops, reports were received of forced recruitment of children, unless payment in lieu of recruitment was received. The country task forces on monitoring and reporting was able to verify this practice in Kayin State, Ta Nay Cha and Thandaunggyi townships, in April and August 2011. Reports of increased recruitment by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were also received in the second half of 2011, as tensions mounted in Kachin and northern Shan State. The country task force also received allegations of children joining KIA purportedly to avoid being used by the Tatmadaw as porters on the front line. The country task force also confirmed one report of a 15-year-old boy recruited by the Kachin Defense Army (KDA) in northern Shan State.
As conflict escalated in Shan State in 2011, reports of Shan State Army South (SSA-S) perpetrating underage recruitment increased. Children are also reportedly present in the ranks of the KNU/KNLA, Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, Karen Peace Front (KPF), Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA), and the United Wa State Army (UWSA). However, the country task force was unable to verify information about these armed groups owing to travel restrictions imposed on it by the Government.
The country task force verified that 43 children had been killed or maimed as a result of conflict-related violence in 22 separate incidents. During the reporting period, children continued to be victims of landmines, explosive remnants of war, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and of crossfire between non-State armed groups and the Tatmadaw.
There were a number of verified cases of children killed in retaliatory actions by members of the Tatmadaw in villages where non-State armed groups were based, or in villages considered aligned to non-State armed groups. For example, in October 2011 the country task force verified an incident where, after having sustained a severe beating, a one-year-old child in a village in Hsipaw township in northern Shan State died by drowning, when soldiers of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) threw the child and his parents into a pit filled with water.
Of the 22 verified incidents, a total of 9 occurred in Kachin State as a result of fighting between the Tatmadaw and KIA, during which 22 children were killed or maimed. In June 2011, for instance, a 16-year-old girl from Bamaw township was shot and killed in crossfire between the Tatmadaw and KIA. In another example, in August 2011, a 3-year-old boy was shot and killed in the crossfire while fleeing his village in Bamaw Township with his grandmother.
In 2011, both the Tatmadaw and non-State armed groups, such as KNU/KNLA, KNPP/KA, DKBA, UWSA, KIA and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) continued to use anti-personnel mines in order to restrict the movement of people, hinder the movement of troops, or to mark areas of operations.
The United Nations received a number of reports of attacks on schools or hospitals by the Tatmadaw and other non-State armed groups during the reporting period. The country task force verified that, during the fighting in May 2011 in Kayin State, the Tatmadaw and DKBA/KNLA allied forces had partially destroyed a hospital in Kawkareik.
During the reporting period, there were also a number of documented reports in Kachin and Kayin States of schools being closed for long periods and schools being damaged by shelling and mortar fire. In August 2011, the country task force verified one case of a school in Kawng Lwin village in Mansi Township being damaged by artillery fire in exchanges between the Tatmadaw and KIA. In July 2011, the country task force documented the incident of a school in Mone Hkawng village in Mansi Township, Kachin State, being damaged by a Tatmadaw mortar attack.
Access to vulnerable groups in many areas of the country, including children, remained limited for United Nations system agencies in Myanmar. The Government continued to restrict access to various parts of the country, citing security concerns as the main reason for limiting the presence and travel of international as well as national personnel of relief agencies. Access was particularly limited in ceasefire and non-ceasefire areas, including mixed administration areas. However, some progress was made when, in December 2011, a United Nations mission visited inaccessible areas along the Myanmar-China border where displacement was recorded.
Information on progress made by parties to conflict on dialogue, action plans and the release of children
Beginning in October 2010, the co-chairs of the country task forces on monitoring and reporting participated in seven meetings to negotiate an action plan with the Tatmadaw, including the integrated border guard forces. Discussions on the action plan were also held between my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Myanmar delegation in New York during September to November 2011 and are ongoing. There has been much progress in the negotiation process, and the country task force reported that it is optimistic that an action plan will be signed in 2012. However, the country task force and my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict also reported that a number of issues remain outstanding before this can be done. This includes access of the country task force to affected children, in particular to military facilities and prisons, and permission to have additional international staff for monitoring purposes.
There was no dialogue with non-State actors during the reporting period, despite the fact that the issue has been pursued throughout the reporting period by the co-chairs of the country task force at the highest level. Access to vulnerable groups in many areas of the country, including children, continued to be challenging for United Nations system agencies and other international humanitarian actors. However, there was some progress by the end of the reporting period, as the Government, in principle, has agreed to provide the country task force with a written assurance that once an action plan is signed with the Tatmadaw, it would facilitate access to non-State armed groups. The terms of that access are yet to be agreed. The country task force has advocated with the Government to include the protection of children in armed conflict as an important aspect of any comprehensive strategy to negotiate the transformation of ceasefire groups to border guard forces or to resolve the conflict with KIA, KNU/KNLA, KNPP/KA and SSA S.
The country task force verified the release of 109 underage recruits, all boys, from the Tatmadaw in 2011. Of these, 61 were released under the ILO forced labour complaints mechanism. In 2011, the Government continued to regularly submit a list of discharged children.
In addition to those formally released, the country task force obtained information from the Government of an additional 417 potential new recruits rejected at the recruitment unit screening between January and the end of September 2011 for the reason of being under 18 years of age. However, despite increasing visits to Tatmadaw recruitment units and training schools, it remained difficult for the country task force to determine that these vetting measures were consistently applied. During informal discussions, Tatmadaw soldiers have highlighted the conflicting pressure they are under, with instructions to find new recruits often taking precedence over the age restrictions on recruitment.
Furthermore, arrests of underage recruits as “deserters” continued in 2011. ILO documented a total of 22 children arrested and charged with desertion in 2011, of whom three were released and discharged from service.
New military instructions continued to be issued in 2011 on the prevention of underage recruitment. The Government shared documents indicating that, in 2011, 51 soldiers of the Tatmadaw were either warned, had their pay and allowances cut, received a serious reprimand or were demoted for recruitment and use of children. However, the country task force noted that, in most cases, the penalties meted out to those convicted of underage recruitment were not commensurate with the crimes committed.
Parties in Myanmar
- Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) (* a )
- Kachin Independence Army (KIA) (* a )
- Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA). This party has sought to conclude an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005), but the United Nations has been prevented from doing so by the Government of Myanmar. (* a )
- Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA). This party has sought to conclude an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005), but the United Nations has been prevented from doing so by the Government of Myanmar. (* a )
- Shan State Army South (SSA-S) (* a )
- Tatmadaw Kyi, including integrated border guard forces (* a )
- United Wa State Army (UWSA) (* a )
* The parties which are underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.
a) Parties that recruit and use children.