YANGON, 20 February 2013 – The Myanmar Armed Forces, or Tatmadaw, has officially discharged 24 children in Yangon in line with the government’s commitment to end the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 years in the armed forces.
The children were discharged in a ceremony on 15 February attended by senior officials of the Tatmadaw, the UNICEF Representative as co-chair of a UN Country Task Force on children and armed conflict, senior officials from the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Social Welfare, Relief, Rehabilitation and Resettlement and member agencies of the Country Task Force.
“This release of 24 children is a welcome step in the implementation of the Action Plan by the Government and reflects its commitment that children should not, and will no longer, be recruited and used for military purposes,” said UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Ashok Nigam.
“I call on the acceleration of the release of all children from the Tatmadaw and for the non-state armed groups to also do the same."
The government’s commitment is in line with Myanmar national law and international best practice and is part of an action plan agreed in June 2012 by the Government of Myanmar and the United Nations Country Task Force on the monitoring and reporting of grave violations of children’s rights.
Myanmar is among 14 countries – with armed forces or armed groups identified by the UN Secretary General as committing grave child rights violations – working together with the United Nations system to end grave violations against children in situations or armed conflict.
More children are expected to be released as awareness of the action plan grows among the Tatmadaw and general public and as the identification process rolls out across the military rank and file.
Under the Action Plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw, the Government agreed to identify all children in the armed forces and to ensure their unconditional release and discharge and to facilitate their reintegration into their families and communities.
At the ceremony, UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel said: “A series of discharges just like this must accelerate in the coming months in order for the Tatmadaw to quickly achieve the double objective of zero underage recruitment and full discharge of those that are under 18 in the armed forces.”
He told the discharged children: “You have not done anything wrong. You are discharged because you were recruited by the army before you were 18 years old, and that is what was wrong. It is another kind of courage that you will need now – the kind of courage that one finds to fulfil one’s dreams.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1612, adopted in 2005, asked the UN Secretary-General to establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism to provide timely and reliable information on six grave children’s rights violations, including the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and armed groups.
The Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism of Grave Violations against children in situations of armed conflict is co-chaired by UNICEF and the UN Resident Coordinator and includes: UNHCR, ILO, UNOCHA, UNDP, WFP, UNFPA, Save the Children and World Vision.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org
For more information, please contact:
Hagar Russ, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-375527-32, firstname.lastname@example.org
Suleman Malik, Officer-in-Charge, Programme Communication and Information Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-375527-32, email@example.com
Sandar Linn, Communication Officer, Programme Communication and Information Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-375527-32, firstname.lastname@example.org