Government of Myanmar and the United Nations sign landmark Plan of Action to release children from armed forces
By Ye Lwin Oo
The Plan was signed in the capital Nay Pyi Taw by Major General Ngwe Thein, Director of the Directorate of Military Strength, Ministry of Defence and Major General Tin Maung Win, Vice
Witnesses to the signing ceremony were Lt. General Hla Min, Union Minister of Defence, and Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
“Between 2002 and 2012, a total number of 588 child soldiers were released from the Tatmadaw. Also action was taken against 201 official and unofficial recruiters involved in under-age recruitment,” informed Lt-General Hla Min, Union Minister for Defence at the signing ceremony.
Through a time bound implementation plan spanning over 18 months, the Action Plan stipulates release of all under-age recruits and work with concerned parties to prevent any further recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar Armed Forces, commonly known as the Tatmadaw. It also supports a community-based reintegration plan for those released.
The UN led CTFMR* and the Government have agreed to monitoring mechanisms to allow access to bases, personnel and documentation for verification. In addition to site visits as part of the monitoring function, the UN and partners will also rely on picking up ‘alerts’ from the community on any continuing recruitment.
Talking to the news media later in her visit, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy told the media that UN is confident that the government would adhere to the Action Plan. Ms. Coomaraswamy added that effective from August 2012 the Action Plan will be implemented within the next 18 months.
“The signing of the Action Plan is a welcome event. It is the result of years of consistent preparation. The most important work however begins now to release all children from the Tatmadaw as early as possible and let reunite with their families and communities,” said Mr. Ramesh Shrestha , Representative of UNICEF (Myanmar).
“The signing of the Action Plan brings a great opportunity for the United Nations and the Country Task Force to work together with the Government and send a strong message that children should not, and will no longer, be recruited and used for military purposes,” said the co-chair of the CTFMR UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Nigam.
In Myanmar, there are eight parties listed for recruitment and use of children: the Tatmadaw, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Liberation Army, Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, Karenni Army, Shan State Army-South and the United Wa State Army.
They are considered persistent perpetrators because they have been listed for more than five years.
The Action Plan is a timely and positive step in the right direction. With the commitment of all stakeholders, it is expected to achieve effective prevention, release and reintegration of children in armed forces, as a critical factor in durable peace and security in Myanmar.