Children, Not Soldiers: Myanmar Fact Sheet

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

Armed clashes between Government armed forces (Tatmadaw) and ethnic armed groups continued in Kachin, Northern Shan and, to a lesser extent, in Kayin State. By December, growing tensions between the Government and armed groups were negatively affecting progress towards a national ceasefire agreement. In October, four Karen armed groups, including the Karen National Liberation Army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army formed the Kawthoolei Armed Forces Alliance, allegedly in response to increased Tatmadaw operations.

A total of 357 cases of child recruitment and use by the Tatmadaw were reported through the Country Task Force-operated phone line, the forced labour complaint mechanism of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and community monitoring. At least 27 of the children, as young as 14 years of age, were newly recruited in 2014. Children were either enlisted owing to economic circumstances and family problems, or were deliberately tricked or forced into joining. The Government-led awareness campaign launched in November 2013 resulted in an increase in reports to the United Nations of child recruitment.

The United Nations received reports that children were deployed to the front line as combatants and in support roles and reported 15 such cases to the Tatmadaw, after which nine children were discharged and the others removed from the front line. A total of 389 boys and young males recruited as children were released from the Tatmadaw. Those released received reintegration assistance from the United Nations and its partners in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare.

Detention of children as “deserters” remained a concern. Of the 53 documented cases of children escaping from the Tatmadaw, 13 were arrested on charges of desertion, with cases increasing towards the end of the year. The United Nations also received a worrisome report of a 16-year-old boy who had allegedly committed suicide while associated with the Tatmadaw in a battalion in Kayah State.

In addition to children recruited into the formal ranks of the Tatmadaw, several incidences of informal association of children were recorded, including as porters and scouts. For example, a 12-year-old boy from Chin State was approached by a soldier and taken to eastern Shan State where he was forced to carry out camp management tasks for five months. In Rakhine State, two battalions have been using a 16-year-old boy for support duties one day per week under abusive work conditions since he was 11. Up to 50 children were used by the same battalions.

Children also continued to be recruited by armed groups, including through abductions. For example, the United Nations verified five reports of children associated with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). On 12 March, two girls, aged 15 and 16 years, were abducted by two KIA elements in Mansi Township. After four days in captivity, they were asked to join KIA in support roles. In another incident, a 12-year-old boy was allegedly used as a combatant by KIA and was injured during a firefight with the Tatmadaw in Namkhan. Owing to access issues and limited capacity, the United Nations was largely unable to monitor the presence of children in armed groups.

Three children were injured in Kachin and northern Shan States and one child was reportedly killed in crossfire. For example, on 29 July, two boys, aged 16 and 17 years, were injured in shelling during clashes between the Ta ’ang National Liberation Army and the Tatmadaw. According to a credible report, on 28 July, a 16-year-old boy was allegedly killed by the Tatmadaw because of his perceived association with the KIA in northern Shan State.

In the absence of a peace agreement, demining and marking explosive remnants of war remained impossible and children continued to be maimed and killed. For example, a 17-year-old boy stepped on a landmine in Kayin State and lost his right leg and injured his left leg seriously. In Mansi township, the KIA allegedly used civilians and internally displaced persons to clear areas of landmines. Of particular concern are landmines laid by the Tatmadaw and KIA in close proximity to schools in Kachin and northern Shan States.

The United Nations verified the rape of a 14-year-old mentally challenged girl in northern Shan State by a Tatmadaw private who was initially convicted by a military tribunal for neglecting his duty. Following pressure from civil society, the case was transferred to a civilian court, which sentenced the soldier to 13 years in prison for raping a minor.

The Tatmadaw continued to use a vacated school building in Bhamo, Kachin State. Also in Kachin, the Alen Bum boys’ dormitory in Laiza was used by KIA-affiliated militia elements as a training facility during summer. After advocacy by the United Nations, KIA instructed the militia to vacate the school and committed itself in writing to prohibit its military use.

Humanitarian access to areas outside of Government control in Kachin and northern Shan States improved compared to the previous reporting period, but remained severely restricted, owing also to administrative delays. Twenty-eight cross-line missions provided assistance to approximately 30,000 persons.

Positive steps have been taken by the Government to advance the implementation of the action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. This included the regular discharge of children from the Tatmadaw, regular review meetings with the United Nations to expedite discharges, strengthened training efforts to sensitize Tatmadaw troops and, in September, the endorsement of a workplan for full implementation of the action plan. In January, the United Nations was granted monitoring access with 72-hour notice to the Border Guard Forces and experienced increased access to Tatmadaw facilities in 11 monitoring visits. The Government and ILO have also been actively cooperating to eliminate forced labour, including recruitment and use, by 2015. Despite progress made, children continue to be present in the Tatmadaw ranks. I urge the Government to take action to prevent recruitment and to exercise due diligence to ensure that children escaping from the Tatmadaw are not arrested as “deserters”. Prevention of child recruitment, as well as oversight mechanisms at all stages of the recruitment process, need to be strengthened urgently.

Parties in Myanmar

1.       Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)a
2.       Kachin Independence Army (KIA)a
3.       Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA)a
4.       Karen National Liberation Army Peace Councila
5.       Karenni Army (KNPP/KA)a
6.       Shan State Army South (SSA-S)a
7.       Tatmadaw Kyi, including integrated border guard forcesa,*
8.       United Wa State Army (UWSA)a

The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators. (a) Parties that recruit and use children.

*This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).