The widespread recruitment and use of children by state armed forces and armed groups in Myanmar has been documented by the UN and human rights organisations for over a decade. Armed conflict between the state and numerous armed ethnic groups has provided the violent backdrop against which child recruitment and other grave violations of human rights have occurred. Children have been drawn into participation in all sides of the armed conflicts not just as a result of militarisation of societies but by socioeconomic compulsions. The pressure to maintain and strengthen troop numbers in the armed forces and armed groups has been a key driver in ongoing underage recruitment.
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 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.
International pressure and assistance can play a significant role in assisting the Myanmar government and the military to address child soldier recruitment and use. Prevention of the recruitment and use of children should be a core principle of international assistance provided to Myanmar, including technical assistance being offered to professionalise the armed forces.
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.