On 20 May 2013, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict introduced to the Working Group the third report on the situation of children and armed conflict in Myanmar. The report covers the period from 1 April 2009 to 31 January 2013, and includes updates on the status of the June 2012 action plan signed by the Myanmar armed forces to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in their ranks. This is the first report on Myanmar submitted to the Working Group since June 2009.
In June 2012, Myanmar signed an action plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw Kyi (national army) and integrated Border Guard Forces. However, concerns remain as to whether the action plan will be implemented within the specified timeframe (18 months) and in relation to violations by non-state actors who are outside the scope of the action plan.
The SG’s report notes that while operational procedures to identify, verify and discharge children associated with the Tatmadaw Kyi have been developed and disseminated to military focal points, only 66 children were released under the framework of the action plan between September 2012 and February 2013. Other challenges are access restrictions to military facilities for monitoring purposes, limited awareness of action plan commitments beyond the circle of senior level officers of the Tatmadaw Kyi, and the continued application of a relaxation of age restrictions for recruitment (Myanmar law prohibits recruitment of children under the age of 18 into the armed forces) formalized in 1996, which the Tatmadaw Kyi used as a basis to enlist 167 underage recruits in 2012 alone.
Watchlist has included recommendations for actions that can be taken by the Working Group in its monthly update for June 2013. Child Soldiers International (CSI) also presented their findings and recommendations to a joint meeting of the members of the Working Group and of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict on 22 May 2013. Human Rights Watch (HRW), a member of Watchlist, warned that disciplinary measures for underage recruitment are not sufficiently deterrent when, at the same time, battalion commanders face equal or stronger punishment for failing to meet recruitment quotas and receive financial incentives for new recruits – all factors that have fuelled underage recruitment in Myanmar in the past.
The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict is expected to adopt its Conclusions on Myanmar in the fall.