Statements Archive

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(27 June 2013) - On June 27, 2012, after nearly five years of negotiation, the Burmese government 
signed a joint action plan with the UN to end the recruitment and use of children as 
soldiers in the Tatmadaw Kyi (the Burmese army) and Border Guard Forces (BGFs). The
Burmese government has failed to meet a range of commitments under the action plan and its actions amount to non-compliance. The Burmese military has released only 66 children since the action plan was signed, a pitifully low figure given that the number of children within the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi is estimated to be around 5,000, not including all those who were recruited as children but have since turned 18.

Recruitment and use of children by the Burmese military continues with fresh cases being reported in 2013. Children continue to be deployed in areas of armed conflict, notably in the Tatmadaw Kyi's war against the Kachin in northeastern Burma. Policies that allow authorities to arrest and detain children on charges of 'desertion' and treat them as adult deserters remain in practice.

The Tatmadaw Kyi continues to refuse the UN Country Task Force unimpeded access to all military sites, thereby preventing the monitoring of the processes of age verification and demobilization. While the Burmese government appears to have taken some steps to strengthen recruitment procedures to end the future recruitment of children, these measures must be implemented across all recruitment centers in the country. The Tatmadaw Kyi has repeatedly resisted providing the UN Country Task Force access to recruitment centers, making it impossible to assess the implementation of recruitment reform.

The UN Country Task Force has not received access to BGF units, which have so far taken no action to verify or demobilize children in their ranks. Likewise, the government has restricted the UN from working with ethnic resistance armed groups that seek international support to implement best practices for age verification and recruitment processes.

The Burmese government's deliberate and continued use of children in conflict despite the joint action plan is an egregious violation of international law. The joint action plan is yet another example of the Burmese government signing an international commitment to pacify western governments without following through on sufficient implementation. The international community, including the International Labor Organization, which prematurely lifted all remaining restrictions on Burma on June 19, must recognize that over the past two years, despite a willingness to sign commitments like the action plan on child soldiers, the military continues to engage in human rights violations including child recruitment and sexual violence instead of rectifying its culture of impunity.

Key recommendations to the Burmese government:

• Implement the Joint Action Plan fully by identifying, registering, and discharging all children present in the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi and the BGFs, and take all necessary measures to prevent recruitment of children into the Tatmadaw Kyi and the BGFs;

• Provide unimpeded access to military sites and other areas where children may be present to enable the UN Country Task Force to assist in identifying, registering and discharging all children present in the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi and the BGFs;

• Allow and facilitate access to the UN Country Task Force and other humanitarian organizations to non-state armed groups in order to enable the negotiation of action plans and other measures, and to monitor and verify reports of child recruitment and use, and to ensure the safe release and reintegration of children associated with these groups;

• Strengthen recruitment procedures and oversight across all recruitment sites in the country, establishing a central database with personal information of individual Tatmadaw Kyi and BGF recruits; and reform the civil registration system to ensure that all children are registered at birth free of charge and without discrimination;

• Immediately end the practice of harassing, detaining, and imprisoning children on the grounds of desertion from the armed forces;

• Independently investigate all credible allegations of child recruitment or use by the Tatmadaw Kyi and the BGFs, and bring to justice suspected perpetrators in proceedings that meet international standards for fair trial;

• Suspend from duty military personnel reasonably suspected of these offenses pending completion of investigations, and take appropriate disciplinary actions against them;

• Ratify, without delay, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Key recommendations to the international community:

• All military engagement between donor governments and the Tatmadaw Kyi should be contingent on significant and verifiable progress by the Burmese government in ending and preventing underage recruitment and use of child soldiers by fully implementing the action plan, along with making significant progress in addressing constitutional reform, systems of impunity, and other human rights concerns.

• The UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict must set deadlines for the Burmese government to comply with the action plan. If the Burmese government fails to meet these deadlines, the persistence of Burmese military leaders in recruiting and mobilizing children must be addressed through the adoption of targeted measures in accordance with Resolution 2068 adopted by the Security Council in April 2012 and the Presidential Statement of June 17, 2013.

List of Endorsing Organizations

1. ALTSEAN-Burma
2. Arakan Observer Group
3. Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition
4. Association Suisse-Birmanie (Switzerland)
5. Burma Action Ireland
6. Burma Campaign Australia
7. Burma Campaign UK
8. Burma Centre Delhi (India)
9. Burma Partnership
10. Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association
11. Center for People's Dialogue-Sri Lanka
12. Child Labor Coalition (USA)
13. Community Action Network (Malaysia)
14. Dignity International
15. Forum for Democracy in Burma
16. Free Burma Campaign (South Africa)
17. Free Burma Philippines Coalition
18. Free the Slaves (USA)
19. Info Birmanie (France)
20. Institute for Asian Democracy
21. Inter Pares (Canada)
22. Journalists' Forum Assam (India)
23. National Democratic Party for Human Rights (exiled), Southeast Asia Regional Office, Malaysia
24. Pax Romana-ICMICA
25. People's Forum on Burma (Japan)
26. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (Malaysia)
27. Rohingya Concern International (USA)
28. Rohingya Youth Development Forum (Burma)
29. Society for Threatened Peoples (Germany)
30. Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation
31. The Best Friend Burmese Library (Thailand)
32. United to End Genocide
33. U.S. Campaign for Burma

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