Ongoing underage recruitment and use by the Myanmar military

For more than ten years, Child Soldiers International has documented the widespread recruitment and use of children as soldiers in Myanmar. We have conducted in-depth investigations on the drivers and patterns of recruitment and use of child soldiers by both the Myanmar military and non-state armed groups, which were published in Chance for Change: Ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar in January 2013, Under the Radar:Ongoing recruitment and use by the Myanmar army in January 2015 and A Dangerous Refuge: Ongoing child recruitment by the Kachin Independence Army in July 2015.

Child Soldiers International’s briefing on child soldiers in the Myanmar military shows that children continue to be unlawfully recruited into the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi, although reported numbers of new recruitment cases are significantly lower in comparison to previous years. From January to April 2015, 14 cases of ‘suspected minors’ were reported to the UN Country Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) but few of these were recruited during that period.

Information received by Child Soldiers International shows that owing to on-going conflicts new recruits, both adults and children, continue to be deployed to the front lines, more recently in the southern Shan state. In addition, use of underage children by the military other than deployment in the front lines has been reported in Shan, Chin and Mon state. Patterns of use of children have been reported from Arakan state since 2013, where members of the Rohingya community are specifically targeted. Although, as “non-citizens”, they cannot be recruited into the army, the use of members of the Rohingya community as forced labour by Myanmar security forces, including the Border Guard Police, has been documented.

While some steps have been taken to strengthen recruitment procedures into the Tatmadaw Kyito prevent underage recruitment, the fact that recruitment occurs in various smaller recruitment units across the country makes effective implementation and controls difficult. Implementation of these measures needs to be routinely monitored and verified by members of the UN CTFMR, for which access remains a crucial requirement. No steps have been initiated to ensure that preventative mechanisms are instituted in the Border Guard Forces (BGFs), which operate under the control of the Tatmadaw Kyi and are within the remit of the Joint Action Plan, including by implementing documentation and screening procedures for entry into their ranks.

This briefing 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. 

Download this briefing here.