MYANMAR: Press Conference Of The Special Representative – Verbatim Transcript

SRSG: My office, which is the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, is meant to be an independent moral voice for children and armed conflict and we have been working closely with the Security Council on issues relating to children and armed conflict.

One aspect of that is that we file an annual report every year about countries in conflict. In addition we have a look at parties that recruit and use children. As well as, since last year, we set up monitoring systems in countries where there is armed conflict.

Basically my visit is that, since March this year, Myanmar has been put on the agenda of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. That means that we have to set up a monitoring and reporting mechanism in the country to monitor grave violations against children in armed conflict. These violations are:

1. Killing or maiming of children;

2. Recruiting or using child soldiers;

3. Attacks against schools or hospitals;

4. Rape or other grave sexual violence against children;

5. Abduction of children;

6. Denial of humanitarian access for children.

The monitoring mechanism is made primarily of UN agencies and this report will be presented to the Security Council Working Group in November this year. Basically, I have come to prepare the ground for that report. This requires the cooperation of the Myanmarese Government. In a sense, they are not part of the monitoring mechanism, but at least we have to be able to ask them questions etc. The good news is that the Government has agreed to set up a focal point at the Ministry of Social Welfare to be the liaison officer to address issues brought in the report.

In addition, we managed to talk to the Committee on (the Prevention of Underage) Child Recruitment and they have agreed to have UNICEF more involved in programs relating to action plans, reintegration of child soldiers and other issues.

We also, as you know, wanted to meet with non-state actors. There are five parties listed in the Security Council. One is KNU, KNPP, Shan State Army, United Wa State Army and the Myanmarese military. We have now talked to the Myanmarese military. We also talked to the United Wa State Army, while we were here, and they agreed to enter into an action plan. With regard to the KNU and the KNPP, there are some political sensitivities, on the part of the home and host Governments. We are in the process of negotiating an arrangement by which we can talk to them and we hope that it can be done by the end of next month. So we will also begin a dialogue with them. That is the framework and I'm willing to answer any questions.

NTV/DPI: What's your comment regarding the child soldier recruitment in Myanmar compared to other countries involved in such matters?

SRSG: I must say that I have not come as an investigation mission or a fact finding mission. There are various reports with regard to child soldiers. The government gave me their point of view and in New York, others have given me their point of view. But the purpose was to set up this monitoring mechanism. The purpose is to try and find out or clarify the real situation with regard to child soldiers. So that's the purpose of this mechanism that I've come to set up.

Reuters: Are you going to talk to other ethnic armed groups?

SRSG: There are some sensitivities. We are in the process of negotiating the arrangement by which we'll talk to them. But I've made it clear to both the Myanmar government nd the Thai government that we have to talk to them. Once they've been put on the list, they have the right to get off the list. So we will talk to them, but the only issue is, what the arrangement is, and we are in the process of negotiating that.

Asahi Shimbun: You are not connected, but will Mr. Gambari be coming here?

SRSG: Mr. Gambari has the far more difficult task of dealing with the political issues. I have to deal with children and on children, most people like to cooperate.

Reuters: Do you expect to come here again?

SRSG: Not in the near future, we hope that this monitoring mechanism we set up will be a constant coordination with our office. As a result we can keep tabs on what's going on.

Reuters: How soon do you expect that monitoring mechanism to emerge?

SRSG: It has already been set up. The task force has been set up in the UN and we hope to have this interaction with the Government. The report will be filed in November before the Security Council Working Group.

Reuters: So you are quite satisfied with the outcome of this visit?

SRSG: I am satisfied…(pause) it was a limited visit. The limited visit was to talk to my own UN partners about the task force and the monitoring mechanism and the second was to get the cooperation of the Myanmar government to go ahead with this. So it is a success in the sense that they have agreed to let the monitoring and reporting mechanism proceed.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Did you have any commitment from the top generals to engage with your organization?

SRSG: We have opened a dialogue on this issue and that commitment is there to continue the dialogue. First, through the focal point and secondly through the Committee for the Prevention of Military Recruitment of Underage Children. They have agreed to the dialogue, continue with the dialogue and we hope to get commitment on a whole host of issues as part of that dialogue.

Sankei Shimbun: Have you met any conflict children apart from the government?

SRSG: As I said, I did not come on a fact finding mission, so it's not to find out the facts, but only to set up this monitoring mechanism.

NTV/DPI: This is not a fact finding mission?

SRSG: This is not a fact finding mission. The main purpose was to set up the monitoring and reporting mechanism for the report to the Security Council in November.

AP: During your meeting with the Acting Prime Minister, apart from the issues of children, did you also discuss issues of human rights and humanitarian assistance such as the restrictions imposed by the government on the humanitarian assistance actors, and their movements?

SRSG: What we did discuss with them is the need for them to continue the dialogue with all the UN agencies including OCHA and other UN agencies that deal with humanitarian access. It was a call to continue that dialogue and widen the humanitarian space but most of the time was spent on the child soldiers. issue.

AP: But the restrictions to the movement of these humanitarian assistance actors are one of the key issues in your report, as well as for the other NGOs.

SRSG: It is a key issue, and it has been raised. One section that Monitoring and Reporting mechanism will monitor is the denial of humanitarian access. So if these allegations are true. We will report on them, we will report that to the Security Council in November what exactly is going on and we mentioned that we were covering all six grave violations including the denial of humanitarian access. So this report will go to the UN and will cover humanitarian access.

AP: What is their reaction to your question with regard to such restrictions?

SRSG: Well I think that the Government, in that sense, said they welcomed the monitoring and reporting mechanism because it allows them the opportunity to put their case forward. In compiling this report, we draw information from all sources including the Government. It's not limited to the facts that the Government gives us. We will get information from anybody who has information and then that information will be verified. The mechanism is much more open that way. At the working level we will deal with all parties to the Myanmarese conflict to get information for the report that will be filed in November.

AP: Can you elaborate a little more on your meeting with the UWSA, the United Wa State Army?

SRSG: Well, it was amusing in a way because initially, they didn't know they were on the list. So when we mentioned to them that they were on the list, they seemed a little shocked by that. But then they said that they were willing to work with UNICEF to devise an action plan. UNICEF will follow up when I'm away.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Did the authorities explain to you about the political developments and the seven step road map, National Convention…?

SRSG: No, we did not discuss any political…they did not discuss the political arrangements with me.

Thank you.

(End of press conference.)