From 17-31 October 2014, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict conducted a field mission to Myanmar. In partnership with UNICEF, Watchlist trained staff of UN agencies, as well as international and national NGOs, on the UN-led 1612 Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). The mission took place amidst ongoing negotiations between the 1612 Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), and the Government of Myanmar, on a work plan on the implementation of the June 2012 Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar Armed Forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, including the Border Guard Forces (BGF).
Since the signature of the Action Plan, some progress has been achieved. The Country Task Force’s access to military facilities, including those used by the BGF (since January 2014), has improved. In addition, 376 children have been discharged from the Tatmadaw, an awareness-raising campaign to end recruitment of children is underway, and some measures are being taken to improve recruitment practices.
Despite this progress, significant challenges remain, especially in the areas of prevention and accountability. Watchlist’s discussion with humanitarian actors on the ground revealed that children are still coerced or lured to enlist by the Tatmadaw. Recruitment practices lack effective monitoring and oversight, allowing underage recruits to be integrated into the ranks sometime using false documents, issued by military personnel or civilian brokers.
Despite sanctions imposed on some junior officers, impunity for grave violations against children remains rampant and significant efforts are required to ensure accountability of perpetrators. Meanwhile, the Government of Myanmar seeks de-listing from the Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflict. This offers a strategic moment for the international community to scale up its engagement on the issue of child recruitment and use by the Tatmadaw.