As efforts continue to bring Myanmar’s long-running civil wars to a close, we are working to ensure that all sides stop recruiting children and allow those in the ranks to return home safely.

I was firing guns at the soldiers [but] I just fired the gun pointing in the air because I was very scared.

This 16-year-old boy was forcibly recruited by Myanmar’s national army, the Tatmadaw Kyi, before being sent to the front line of an internal conflict in the northeast of the country. The armed group that he was forced to fight have also recruited and used children.

The issue

Myanmar’s internal armed conflicts have been marked by severe human rights violations, attacks against civilians, and mass displacement, with children widely used by both state armed forces and armed groups. Despite a minimum enlistment age of 18, large numbers of boys have been recruited, often forcibly, into the national army, with some sent to the front line far from home and forced to fight in gruelling and dangerous conditions.

Our impact

Child Soldiers International has documented the widespread recruitment and use of children as soldiers in Myanmar for over a decade. Our relentless research and advocacy has contributed to the release of 700 children from the national army since 2012. We have built pressure to ensure that those who recruited children are held responsible and action has so far been taken against 382 national army officials. The practice of detaining children who fled from the national army has now reduced and there is widespread awareness that the recruitment and use of children is a crime which will be punished.

What we’ll do next

Myanmar’s November 2015 Parliamentary election resulted in a sweeping victory for the National League of Democracy, generating hope that the new government will improve the country’s human rights situation. We are calling on the new government to remove all children from the ranks of the national army.

With that goal in mind, we will be engaging with the national authorities and civil society to see Myanmar opt in fully to the relevant international laws and ensure that domestic laws that prohibit child recruitment are fully observed. Our aim is to ensure that all sides in Myanmar stop recruiting, using and exploiting children.

Background

Myanmar has been affected by some of the longest-running internal armed conflicts in the world. Following independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, the failure to agree to a comprehensive political settlement on power sharing led to conflicts between a number of ethnic minority groups.

After the state armed forces seized power in 1962, the country laboured under a repressive military dictatorship for nearly half a century. Internal armed conflict continued; children were and still are commonly recruited and used by the conflicting parties. A transition to civilian government began in 2011.

Photo © Ryan Roco/Child Soldiers International