Mass release of children by Myanmar Armed Forces important step towards a new Myanmar

YANGON, 18 January 2014 – In an historic step towards ending the recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar Armed Forces (the “Tatmadaw”), ninety-six (96) children and young people today rejoined family and friends following a ceremony marking their entry back into civilian life.

The release - the largest since the signing of the Action Plan to prevent and end the recruitment and use of children by the Tatmadaw between the Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on grave child rights violations (CTFMR) and the Government of Myanmar - follows in the footsteps of a visit to Myanmar by the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict from 30 November – 4 December 2013.

“This is the largest release since the signing of the June 2012 Action Plan which is currently due for renewal”, said Ms Renata Dessallien, United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and CTFMR co-Chair with UNICEF. “Today demonstrates the importance of the Action Plan which constitutes a significant commitment by the Myanmar Government to prevent and end the recruitment and use of children by the Tatmadaw,” Ms Dessallien continued. “The Action Plan remains a critical instrument for the CTFMR and the Myanmar Government to reach the ultimate goal of zero recruitment and full demobilisation of children,” she added.

The CTFMR welcomes continued positive engagement with and constructive efforts by the Myanmar Government and the Tatmadaw in continuing to implement the Action Plan. “To date 272 children and young people have been released under the auspices of the Action Plan,” said Mr Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Yangon and CTFMR co-Chair. “Some have been released under the supplementary ILO complaints mechanism and as a result of a nationwide public awareness campaign,” he added. Action Plan discharges include: 42 children and young people in September 2012; 24 in February 2013; 42 in July 2013; and 68 in August 2013 in addition to today’s release.

Myanmar children are also recruited and used by non-state armed groups. “We encourage the 7 listed non-state armed groups in Myanmar to also sign up to their own Action Plan with the CTFMR,” said Ms Dessallien.

Additional positive steps towards the complete demobilisation of children include a recent Myanmar Government commitment to ratify ILO Convention 182 addressing the worst forms of child labour. In addition, the CTFMR continues to call upon the Myanmar Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in line with commitments made in the Action Plan.

“Today is an important step towards real reform - a strong commitment by the Myanmar Government and the Tatmadaw to end a practice that steals the lives, hopes, and dreams of children”, said Mr Bainvel. “More than 18 months into the Action Plan, discharge efforts such as this must be continued throughout 2014,” he added. “It will not be possible to build a new Myanmar without ending the use and recruitment of children by the Tatmadaw and non-state armed groups once and for all,” Mr Bainvel concluded. [Ends]