Under the radar: Ongoing recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar army
Myanmar: Further steps needed to end army’s recruitment and use of children
Measures identified in the UN Joint Action Plan need to be urgently implemented
London, 23 January 2015 – The Myanmar government should promptly implement measures to honour its stated commitment towards ending child recruitment and use, Child Soldiers International said in a report released today. While some important steps have been taken since the government signed the June 2012 Joint Action Plan with the UN, research conducted by Child Soldiers International found that children below 18 years of age continue to be forcibly recruited and used in the Tatmadaw Kyi, the Myanmar army. The report calls on the government to urgently address serious gaps in age verification protocols, recruitment procedures and accountability mechanisms to ensure children are not recruited and used as soldiers in state forces.
The 28-page report Under the radar: Ongoing recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar army found that military officers and civilian ‘brokers’ continue to use deliberate misrepresentation to entice new recruits, including children. Poor and uneducated boys are frequently intimidated and coerced. A commonly deployed tactic is to offer a child a good job with a decent salary (for instance as a driver) and lure them to the nearest recruitment centre or battalion. In 2014, cases of underage recruitment were mostly being reported to the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (UNCTFMR) from the Yangon, Ayeyarwaddy and Mandalay regions.
Since 2013, a total of 723 cases of underage recruitment have been reported to the UNCTFMR, of which 474 either are still children or were under-18 at the time of the signing of the 2012 Action Plan, including 126 children allegedly recruited in 2013 and 2014.
“The Myanmar government should be commended on some steps it has taken to address child recruitment, particularly its launch of a nation-wide awareness raising campaign”, said Charu Lata Hogg, Asia Program Manager, Child Soldiers International. “But if children continue to be recruited and used by the Tatmadaw Kyi, then clearly this is not enough. The revolving door of the recruitment of children has to stop.”
Child Soldiers International’s research found that the practice of falsification of age documents, including National Registration Cards (NRC) – now also called Citizenship Scrutiny Cards (CSC) - and family lists, continues unchecked and no effective measures have been taken to establish accountability for this practice. An unofficial system of incentives to reward military recruiters and punishments for failure to meet recruitment targets still exists at the battalion level. Bonuses in cash or in kind are also known to be provided to recruiters for exceeding recruitment targets and, in some cases, serving soldiers who want to leave the army are told that they will only be discharged if they find new recruits.
While some steps have been taken to strengthen recruitment procedures within the Myanmar army, effective mechanisms to monitor and oversee recruitment have not yet been established. In 2013, the Tatmadaw Kyi set up Scrutiny Boards at each of the 14 Regional Military Commands to review files of recruits entering the military through mobile recruitment units and battalions. However, there is no public information available which shows that Scrutiny Boards have rejected potential recruits on grounds of age. Lacking in operational independence, the Scrutiny Boards are unable to exercise genuine control over the recruitment process.
The Myanmar military has taken some form of disciplinary action in cases of child recruitment brought to their attention: since 2007, 312 perpetrators have been held to account, including 48 officers. Punishments have ranged from warnings, reduction in salary, denial of promotion and imprisonment up to three months. However, only a handful of prosecutions have been initiated against civilians, including brokers, who play an important role in luring children into recruitment. In addition, there are significant legal and political obstacles to holding military personnel criminally accountable for underage recruitment.
“The Myanmar government has declared its commitment to bringing an end to child soldiering,” said Hogg. “Now is the time to take concrete and irreversible steps to ensure that no child remains in the Tatmadaw Kyi.”
The report offers a set of recommendations, which, if implemented, would contribute to ending and preventing the practice of underage recruitment and use within the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi. “Those countries, such as the UK, US and Australia, which provide the Myanmar government with technical assistance to professionalise the armed forces should make their assistance dependent on real action to prevent further recruitment and use of children,” said Hogg.
Notes for Editors:
For more information and to arrange an interview with a spokesperson from Child Soldiers International, please contact Charu Lata Hogg, Tel: +44 (0) 2073674112.