Myanmar army releases 53 more child soldiers: UN

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By Joshua Carroll, Anadolu Agency

(YANGON) Myanmar released another 53 child soldiers from its notorious armed forces Monday, according to the United Nations' children's agency.

The 53 are the latest to be discharged under a deal signed in 2012 between the former pariah state and the UN to end the recruitment and use of children by the military.

Renata Lok-Dessallien, UN resident coordinator, said in a statement that Monday's release "is the result of continued efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw [army] to put an end to the harmful practice of recruiting and using children."

Lok-Dessallien, who also serves as co-chair of the UN task force for monitoring and reporting violations against children, said she was "delighted to see these children and young people returning to their homes and families," The Irrawaddy news service reported.

UNICEF has been working alongside Myanmar’s government, which replaced the military junta in 2011 and began sweeping political reforms, to secure the release of people who were recruited, often forcibly, by the military as children. More than 140 children were discharged from Myanmar’s army in 2015.

Many rebel groups that have been at war with Myanmar’s army for decades also recruit child soldiers, according to the UN.

A total of 699 children have been freed from military service since the Myanmar government signed the UN deal as part of a package of reforms following 50 years of military rule.

However, a spokesperson for the National League for Democracy, the opposition party that will form Myanmar’s new government in early 2016 following a landslide win in the Nov. 8 election, expressed concern about the unknown number of child soldiers still in the army.

"They've released child soldiers, though they actually should not have taken these children to serve in the army in the first place," Win Htein told the Irrawaddy.

Earlier this year, a British rights group slammed UNICEF as "irresponsible" for its public praise of Myanmar's military following the release of 51 child soldiers.

Mark Farmaner of Burma Campaign UK, a Myanmar-focused rights group that uses the country’s former name, told Anadolu Agency in June that although the military has released hundreds of child soldiers in recent years, the practice of recruiting and using children has continued.

"It is astonishing and irresponsible for UNICEF to continue to praise the military for releasing child soldiers when they are violating a recent agreement with UNICEF to stop recruitment and use of child soldiers," he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency


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