Joint press release with UNICEF
YANGON/New York – Today, 91 children and young people* were released from the armed forces, to rejoin their families, friends and communities, demonstrating the commitment of the Myanmar Government and the Myanmar Armed Forces (known as the Tatmadaw) to end the recruitment and use of children. Their release results from strong collaboration and the joint efforts of the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Government and the UN Country Task force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) on grave violations against children.
The 91 children and young people arrived in Yangon earlier this week where, for many of them, they met their families for the first time after several years of separation.
Representatives from the Myanmar Government (including the Ministry of Immigration and Population, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement) worked alongside the CTFMR to ensure the children and young people were provided with new civil documentation, health checks, and one-to-one psycho-social debriefing sessions with trained social workers to identify their immediate and longer-term needs.
The United Nations welcomed the release of the 91 children, one of the largest of such discharges since June 2012, when the Government committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw by signing an Action Plan with the United Nations detailing steps to make their army child-free.
“Today’s release of 91 children and young people is an important step in ending the recruitment and use of children in the Myanmar Armed Forces, a practice that takes children away from their families and communities with long lasting, devastating effects on the child” said Ms. Shalini Bahuguna, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Myanmar, on behalf of the CTMFR. “A total of 364 children and young people have been released since June 2012,” Ms. Bahuguna continued.
Myanmar is one of seven countries whose national security forces are listed by the Secretary-General for recruitment and use of children. In March 2014, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF launched “Children, not Soldiers”, a campaign to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by government security forces in conflict by 2016.
“I rely on the Government’s commitment to act on each of the points listed in the Action Plan, including mechanisms to end and prevent the recruitment of children and hold perpetrators accountable” said Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “The international community should spare no efforts to support Myanmar to make the promise of the Action Plan a reality for the country’s children.”
Reintegration of children formerly associated with the Tatmadaw requires long-term efforts and continued funding. Individual, on-going support is essential to ensure these children have a successful restart in life. Such efforts have been enhanced by a recent directive of the Ministry of Education, in May 2014, which ensures that children discharged from the Armed Forces can go back to school immediately after their release and at any point in the school year. Previously, it took up to two months for children formerly associated with the armed forces to be re-enrolled into State schools. The new directive will simplify the process and the work for all parties, including the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and the Ministry of Education.
Similarly, the Ministry of Health has recently issued a directive to relevant Township Medical Officers to give special attention to the medical needs of released children. “Such directives set a precedent and show a Government-wide commitment to improve and accelerate care and reintegration for released children,” Ms. Bahuguna added.
The Joint Action Plan signed two years ago sets a framework to accelerate the release and reintegration of children associated with the Armed Forces. The plan sets a timetable and measurable activities for the release and re-integration of children associated with Government armed forces, as well as further recruitment.
“We commend the significant progress made by the Myanmar Armed Forces since the signature of the Joint Action Plan in June 2012. The military is not a place for a child to grow up. Such discharges must be accelerated so that the Tatmadaw can quickly achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment, and full discharge of those that are under 18 in the armed forces,” Ms. Bahuguna concluded on behalf of CTMFR.
* All young people released were under 18 at the time of the signing of the Joint Action Plan in June 2012.
In addition to the Tatmadaw, there are seven non-state armed groups listed by the UN Secretary-General as also being “persistent perpetrators” in the recruitment and use of children in Myanmar. They are the:
1. Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)
2. Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
3. Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)
4. Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council
5. Karenni Army (KA)
6. Shan State Army South (SSA-S)
7. United Wa State Army (UWSA)
ABOUT THE CTFMR
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1612 mandates the UN to establish UN-led CTFMRs in countries where there is verified evidence that Grave Violations against children are being committed by parties to a conflict, either by armed forces and/or by armed groups. The CTFMR is tasked with establishing a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) which documents, verifies and reports to the UNSC on Grave Violations against children. The six Grave Violations monitored and reported are:
• killing or maiming of children
• recruitment and use of children in armed forces and armed groups
• attacks against schools or hospitals
• rape or other grave sexual violence
• abduction of children
• denial of humanitarian access for children.
The CTFMR is also mandated to provide a coordinated response to such grave violations. The CTFMR was established in Myanmar in 2007 and is co-Chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator and the UNICEF Representative in Yangon. The CTFMR in Myanmar includes relevant UN agencies (ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN OCHA, the UN RCO and WFP), Save the Children and World Vision.
In November 2013, UNICEF supported the Myanmar Government to launch a nation-wide campaign to raise awareness on its population on its commitment to end use and recruitment of Children by Tatmadaw. As part of this campaign, and on behalf of the CTMFR, UNICEF and World Vision are managing 2 hotlines (09-421166701 and 09-421166702) where anyone can alert and report suspected cases of children being recruited by the Tatmadaw.
ILO Complaint Mechanism
The ILO Complaint Mechanism, on the elimination of forced labour, including under-age recruitment, is also in place and working toward supplementing the CTMFR mechanism. To report under this mechanism contact: 01 655538/9 01 9578925, 01 57 9956. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: (+95) 1 2305960-69 (Ext. 1446) email@example.com
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m), firstname.lastname@example.org.
In New York:
Stephanie Tremblay, Communications officer, Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, +1 212 963 8285, email@example.com