LONDON, 28 August 2013 – The Myanmar government must act now to implement the recent recommendations issued by the UN Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict (UNSCWG) to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, Child Soldiers International said today. On 16 August 2013, the UNSCWG released its conclusions on children and armed conflict in Myanmar, urging the Myanmar government to take specific measures to protect children from unlawful recruitment by the Myanmar military and armed groups, and thereby live up to its commitments to bring a definitive end to underage recruitment in the country.

“Prompt action to implement the Security Council’s recommendations will provide the clearest possible demonstration of the government’s commitment to end this violation of children’s rights” said Richard Clarke, Director of Child Soldiers International. “In the first instance this must include immediate measures to identify, register and discharge all children present in the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi (Myanmar army) and the Border Guard Forces, followed by implementation of the other measures set out in the Joint Action Plan signed with the UN in 2012,” he said.

In its conclusions, the UNSCWG expressed “deep concern about the continued recruitment and use of children in violation of international law by all parties to the armed conflict, as well as the continued abductions of children, including for recruitment purposes.”

In its May 2013 briefing Child Soldiers International showed that despite the signing of a Joint Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of children between the Myanmar government and the UN in June 2012, children continue to be present in the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi and the Border Guard Forces (BGFs), which function under the command of the Tatmadaw Kyi and in armed opposition groups. In January 2013, a report by Child Soldiers International, ‘Chance for Change - Ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar’, showed that a persistent emphasis on increasing troop numbers - accompanied by corruption, weak oversight and impunity – contributed to on-going child recruitment in the Tatmadaw Kyi.

In its concluding observations, the UNSCWG called upon the Myanmar government not only to end the use of incentives and civilian brokers in its recruitment process but also to hold perpetrators of child abuse accountable “through the investigation and prosecution of military and civilian individuals responsible for such acts”.

The UNSCWG urged the Myanmar government to ensure that the issue of child protection, including the release and reintegration of child soldiers, is integrated into ceasefire and peace agreements. The UNSCWG also addressed the donor community and called for enhanced support in strengthening recruitment procedures, including through the establishment of effective age verification mechanisms.

Research conducted by Child Soldiers International shows that despite some limited successes in identifying and releasing children from the Myanmar army, measures to prevent continuing child recruitment have not been prioritised in programs to professionalise the armed forces. Child Soldiers International has repeatedly urged the Myanmar government to strengthen its efforts towards preventing further underage recruitment including by strengthening recruitment procedures and oversight across all recruitment sites in the country and by establishing a central database with personal information of individual Tatmadaw Kyi and BGFs recruits. “It is crucial that the Myanmar government amends its current civil registration system to ensure that all children are registered at birth free of charge and without discrimination,” said Clarke.

Child Soldiers International urges the Myanmar government to promptly implement the recommendations of the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict as a first step towards fully implementing the Joint Action Plan. In particular, the Myanmar government must:

• Identify, register and discharge all children within the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi and the BGFs in coordination with the UN country task force on monitoring and reporting, to ensure that all new recruits are over the age of 18 by strictly applying the directive of the Directorate of Military Strength of October 2012;

• To allow access of the UN country task force on monitoring and reporting to all military facilities through the country and to other areas where children may be present, including to armed groups in order to expedite the development of action plans;

• To bring to justice perpetrators of violations of children’s rights through proper investigation and prosecution of both military personnel and civilians responsible for such acts.