Recent Crisis Raises Grave Protection Concerns
The United Nations Secretary-General, in his fourth report on the impact of armed conflict on children in Myanmar, documents progress in the Government of Myanmar’s efforts to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but notes that on-going clashes and the recent wave of violence in Rakhine add to the plight of conflict affected children in the country.
Covering the period from 1 February 2013 to 30 June 2017, the report does not specifically include the latest crisis in the norther Rakhine state and its impact on children, but the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict has been asked to undertake a one-year update, to be published in August 2018. The SRSG had already sent a fact-finding mission to Bangladesh in November 2017 and is expected to brief the Security Council Working Group on its initial findings.
“Recent violence, especially in the northern and western parts of the country, are putting the children of Myanmar at greater risk of being used and abused by parties to conflict, while jeopardizing the progress made in the past years to end the recruitment and use of children,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba highlighted.
Although the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signed on 15 October 2015 between the Government and eight armed groups was a landmark in the peace process, grave violations were still registered during the reporting period, with recruitment and use being by far the most documented violation, followed by killing and maiming.
Cases of recruitment and use by the Myanmar Armed Forces/Tatmadaw have decreased over the reporting period, with 856 cases verified by the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR). The 2014 establishment of a tripartite mechanism involving the CTFMR and the Ministries of Immigration and Defense accelerated the verification process of children associated with the Tatmadaw, leading to the release of more than 849 children and young people between February 2013 and January 2017.
Security and access constraints remained a constant challenge thus making the gravity and scale of violations perpetrated against children not fully exposed in the report. The CTFMR could verify only a limited number of cases of recruitment and use by armed groups, 22 out of 41 documented, affecting 59 boys and girls.
During the reporting period, 41 children were killed and 104 maimed, the majority victims of improvised explosive devices, landmines and explosive remnants of war (81 children). 53 children were victims of direct armed clashes and cross-fire incidents between armed groups and Tatmadaw.
Rape and sexual violence remained underreported, with the CTFMR verifying nine cases out of 21 reported, all committed by Tatmadaw soldiers against girls. A total of 40 children were reported abducted with a clear increase of cases of abduction by armed groups in years 2015-2016; half of the incidents were attributed to Tatmadaw.
Development and Concerns
In line with the Joint Action Plan signed in 2012 to end the recruitment and use of children, several steps were taken by the Government to better protect the children of Myanmar. This includes the release in November 2013 of a directive abolishing any recruitment under the age of 18, though the application of the directive remains a challenge, and the signature in September 2015 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“I encourage the Government to continue to speed up the implementation of its Action Plan, including through the development of accountability mechanisms. The UN remains ready to support these efforts,” SRSG Gamba said, adding: “I urge all parties to conflict to refrain from violence and take all necessary measures to protect the boys and girls of Myanmar, in line with national and international law and Security Council resolutions.”
Stephanie Tremblay / Fabienne Vinet
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-8285 – Mobile: +1 917 288-5791