MPs back signing of optional protocol on child soldiers

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By Ei Ei Toe Lwin, The Myanmar Times

The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw has approved an optional international protocal which aims to keep children out of armed conflict.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a proposal to proceed with the ratification of the United Nations protocol to parliament on August 20. It was approved without objection yesterday.

The optional protocol – an addition to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – requires states to “take all feasible measures” to ensure that soldiers under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities. They are also required to raise the voluntary recruitment age above 15 years, and cannot conscript anyone under 18. Parties to the optional protocol must also take measures to stop non-state armed groups from recruiting and using children under the age of 18 in conflicts.

Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister U Tin Oo Lwin said signing the convention would show that Myanmar is willing to adhere to international human rights norms.

“It’s not enough to merely sign the convention – the government also needs to enact the necessary laws and penalties for those who fail to follow the convention’s rules and regulations,” he added.

The optional protocol would also benefit the peace process, he said, because both the government and ethnic armed forces must follow the terms.

MPs welcomed the proposal but warned the government not to sign the optional protocol “for show”. They urged the implementation of the steps required for a full compliance.

U Khine Maung Yi, a Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Yangon’s Ah-lone, said the convention was important for stopping the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

“The main point is that the convention does not allow Myanmar to leave the agreement if conflict continues. Myanmar has not solved its internal conflict yet, but I think we can control abuse of children rights to some extent by signing this convention,” he said.

Myanmar’s armed forces, the Tatmadaw, have regularly been accused of recruiting and using child soldiers.

The Tatmadaw and seven non-state armed groups in Myanmar have been listed by the UN Security Council as “persistent perpetrators” of underage recruitment.

In June 2012, the Ministry of Defence committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw by signing a Joint Action Plan with the UN, the first step toward being removed from the list. Since then it has released 646 underage recruits, according to the UN.

Daw Su Su Lwin, an MP from Thongwa in Yangon, said the signing of the optional protocol would not immediately result in Myanmar being delisted as an underage recruiter.

Source: The Myanmar Times

Photo: Han Thar Nyein 

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