MYANMAR: Government And UN Begin Dialogue On Child Soldiers

New-York- Yangon, 29 June 2007 – The UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, concluded her five day visit to Myanmar within the framework of Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005), monitoring the six grave violations committed against children during conflict. The report of the Secretary General on the situation of Children and Armed Conflict in Myanmar will be examined by the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in November 2007.

The modalities and guidelines for the operation of the in-country UN Task Force, which will collect and verify updated information for the preparation of the report, were discussed with the UN Country Team.

"This report will provide us with a clearer understanding of the situation of children affected by the conflict in Myanmar. Updated information on practices by all parties listed in the Security Council report for using child soldiers should lead to engagement with the armed forces and armed groups in order to ensure the release of the children and their proper reintegration into their communities," said Ms. Coomaraswamy.

The UN Special Representative met with General Thein Sein, acting Prime Minister and Secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as well as with other ministers and senior officials. She also held a working session with the leadership of the Government Committee for the Prevention of Military Recruitment of Underage Children at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and visited a military recruitment center in Mandalay.

In her discussions with the authorities, Ms. Coomaraswamy explained the framework of Resolution 1612 and the requirements of its monitoring and reporting mechanism. The Government of Myanmar agreed to appoint a high level focal point from the Ministry of Social Welfare to engage with the UN Country Team, and especially UNICEF, on all issues related to children and armed conflict. "The Government responded favorably to an on-going dialogue with the United Nations," stated the Under-Secretary General.

During the working session with the Committee on the Prevention of the Recruitment on Underage Children, it was agreed that they would develop and finalize an action plan in collaboration with UNICEF and set up a sub-committee with relevant line Ministries on issues related to the reintegration of the children in accordance with the Paris principles. Under this action plan, trainings on child protection in armed conflict will also be organized on a regular basis, especially with the Ministry of Defense.

Ms. Coomaraswamy also met with the United Wa State Army, one of the non-state actors listed in the Security Council Report. She urged them to engage with the UN Country Team in preparing an action plan to halt recruitment of minors and developing a reintegration programme. Modalities are also being discussed with regard to engagement with other non-state actors who are listed for using child soldiers.

The Special Representative welcomes this opportunity to engage in dialogue with the senior leadership of the Myanmar Government on issues related to child protection and to clarify with them international standards and obligations relating to children and armed conflict. "This visit is a beginning in seeking to address some of the important issues relating to child protection in Myanmar', Ms. Coomaraswamy concluded.

# # #

For further information, please contact:

Ms. Laurence Gérard, Liaison Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict. Cellphone: +1 646-266-8633 – gerardl@un.org – (travelling with Ms. Coomarasawamy)

Luca Solimeo, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, in New York – solimeo@un.org – +1 917-367-3563

See Transcript of the Press Conference in Yangon (29 June 2007)