Myanmar: UN welcomes release of child soldiers
New York, Feb 19 : The United Nations welcomed the release of 24 children by Myanmar's armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, and called for the acceleration of discharges in line with the commitment made last year by the Government to end child rights violations.
Last June, the UN and the Government of Myanmar signed an action plan that sets a timetable and measurable activities for the release and reintegration of children associated with Government armed forces, as well as the prevention of further recruitment.
According to a news release issued by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the 24 children were officially discharged Monday at a ceremony in Yangon, attended by senior officials of the Tatmadaw and the Government, as well as the UN.
"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," stated UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar Ashok Nigam.
"I call for the acceleration of the release of all children from the Tatmadaw and for the non-State armed groups to also do the same," he added.
Myanmar is one of 14 countries - with armed forces or armed groups identified by the UN Secretary-General as committing grave child rights violations - working together with the UN system to end grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.
Under the action plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw, the Government has agreed to: identify all children in the Tatmadaw and ensure their unconditional release/discharge; facilitate the reintegration of released children into their families and communities; and facilitate processes that seek to end child recruitment by non-State armed groups, among other measures.
The plan was the result of years of negotiation between the Government and the UN, on behalf of a Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting of grave violations of child rights in armed conflict (CTFMR), with the latter made up of various UN agencies and programmes, as well as international non-governmental organizations.
Speaking at the ceremony, Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF's Representative in Myanmar and CTFMR co-chair, said that "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 under-age recruitment and full discharge of those that are under 18 in the armed forces."