Myanmar Childsoldiers need Your Honours! Dr Gambari and Prof. Pinherio

Myanmar Childsoldiers need Your Honours!

Dr Gambari and Prof. Pinherio

_By Dr San Oo Aung

 

Dear Dr Ibrahim Agboola Gambari and Prof. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro,

Please do not ignore the plights of our Child Soldiers. Please just do not look at the other side and pretend that you never seen or heard about us. Please may you two do not close one eye and just do the diplomatic works that you are assigned by United Nations.

Dear Dr Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, as you had studied at the Columbia University, New York and completed both of your M.A. and his Ph.D in International Relations, please do not be too diplomatic, soft, polite, smile and always follow the diplomatic protocol all the times in dealing with cunning SPDC Generals. You must be bold enough, decisive, and must show the tough generals that you are empowered with full authority given by UNSC and UNSG.

Dear Prof. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, on 12 February 2003, even the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed you as the independent expert to lead a global study on violence against children, to provide an in-depth picture of the prevalence, nature and causes of violence against children.

So we hope that you are an expert and know all about The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which emphasizes children’s rights to physical and personal integrity, and outlines States parties obligations to protect them from “all forms of physical or mental violence”, including sexual and other forms of exploitation, abduction, armed conflict, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Thousands of children are killed and wounded each year as a direct result of fighting while millions more suffer indirectly from malnutrition and disease, according to the report released on 17 October 2007, by the Special Representative of United Nations.

Despite troubling numbers regarding the tens of millions of children displaced and out of school because of conflicts, the report notes significant advancements made in the last 10 years to protect children from war crimes, unlawful recruitment and sexual violence. Among those advancements is the adoption of new international laws and standards to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.

“We have created the frameworks,” said your successor, Ms. Coomaraswamy. “Now it’s time for implementation.” . . . many believe their Governments do not do enough to honour or enforce the international agreements and conventions they have signed.

Ms. Johnson of UNICEF said progress had been made on legal instruments, but the reality on the ground still showed the need to use them more efficiently and to have a more rigorous response. She joined the other members of the panel in calling for more effective implementation of international standards and norms to end impunity for violations against children . . .

Please read all at http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/071017_Children.doc.htm

The report, by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF, . . . notes that advances have been made in protecting children from war crimes such as unlawful recruitment by armed forces and groups and sexual violence. It also urges the international community to take concrete actions to stop abuses of children in armed conflict.

Over the past decade, conflict has impacted children more brutally than ever. They are victims of strikes against schools and of abductions aimed at forcing them to serve as combatants, sex slaves or servants. And in conflict zones their vulnerability is often greatly increased because violence claims their first line of defense – their parents.

“Threats to children caught in conflict are increasing,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “They are no longer just caught in the crossfire. They are increasingly the intended targets of violence, abuse and exploitation, victims of myriad armed groups that prey on civilians.” But the damage that war wreaks on children’s lives is not limited to attacks by combatants. Malnutrition, disease, displacement and poverty also threaten them.

The report urges all UN member states to fulfill their responsibilities to children, by providing them with access to basic services like education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation. “The needs of children must be prioritized before, during and after conflict. They must be part of all peace-making and peace-building processes,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.

Other key recommendations include a call to end impunity for those responsible for heinous crimes against children. This means ensuring prosecution of war crimes and adherence to relevant international norms, many of which have been established since the original Machel study was published.

Ten years ago, the original landmark Machel study alerted the world to the brutal realities faced by children recruited by armed groups and on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Some important achievements in this regard are:

  1. the first prosecutions by international tribunals,

  2. the commitment of the Security Council (a) to monitor and (b) address the issues and

  3. the adoption of new international laws and standards.

These include:

  1. Optional Protocol of the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and

  2. the Paris Principles

to prevent the unlawful recruitment and use of children.

However helping children recover from the trauma caused by their experiences and ensuring their long term reintegration into their communities remains a considerable challenge.

We hope that two of you are aware of this recent press release by UN on, MYANMAR: Press Conference of the Special Representative –

Since March 2007, Myanmar has been put on the agenda of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. That means that we have to set up a monitoring and reporting mechanism in the country to monitor grave violations against children in armed conflict.

These violations are:

1. Killing or maiming of children;

2. Recruiting or using child soldiers;

3. Attacks against schools or hospitals;

4. Rape or other grave sexual violence against children;

5. Abduction of children;

6. Denial of humanitarian access for children.

You could revised the above in full at_http://www.un.org/children/conflict/pr/2007-06-29161.html

The UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, concluded her five day visit to Myanmar within the framework of Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005), monitoring the six grave violations committed against children during conflict. The report of the Secretary General on the situation of Children and Armed Conflict in Myanmar will be examined by the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in November 2007.

But when Asahi Shimbun asked: “You are not connected, but will Mr. Gambari be coming here?”

Ms. Radhika Coomarasamy, who assumed the position of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict answered: “Mr. Gambari has the far more difficult task of dealing with the political issues. I have to deal with children and on children, most people like to cooperate.”

Yomiuri Shimbun: “Did the authorities explain to you about the political developments and the seven step road map, National Convention…?”

SRSG: “No, we did not discuss any political…they did not discuss the political arrangements with me.” http://www.un.org/children/conflict/pr/2007-06-29161.html

So two of you should not fail to question and press the Myanmar Military Government on this important Child soldiers issues. You two should also discuss about this issue when you two meet the members of the civil society and children affected by conflict and try to ensure greater protection for the child soldiers.

We hope that two of you thoroughly know, The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors implementation of two optional protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution A/RES/54/263 of 25 May 2000 and entry into force 12 February 2002 , has clearly stated the followings:

  1. Disturbed by the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on children and the long-term consequences it has for durable peace, security and development,

  2. Condemning the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict and direct attacks on objects protected under international law, including places that generally have a significant presence of children, such as schools and hospitals,

  3. Noting the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, in particular, the inclusion therein as a war crime, of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities in both international and non-international armed conflicts.

  4. Noting that article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that, for the purposes of that Convention, a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier,

  5. Convinced that an optional protocol to the Convention that raises the age of possible recruitment of persons into armed forces and their participation in hostilities will contribute effectively to the implementation of the principle that the best interests of the child are to be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children,

  6. Noting that the twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 1995 recommended, inter alia, that parties to conflict take every feasible step to ensure that children below the age of 18 years do not take part in hostilities,

  7. Welcoming the unanimous adoption, in June 1999, of International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which prohibits, inter alia, forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict,

  8. Condemning with the gravest concern the recruitment, training and use within and across national borders of children in hostilities by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a State, and recognizing the responsibility of those who recruit, train and use children in this regard,

  9. Recalling the obligation of each party to an armed conflict to abide by the provisions of international humanitarian law,

  10. Mindful of the necessity of taking into consideration the economic, social and political root causes of the involvement of children in armed conflicts,

  11. Convinced of the need to strengthen international cooperation in the implementation of the present Protocol, as well as the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.

Article 1

States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

Article 2

States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.

Article 3

1. States Parties shall raise in years the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons into their national armed forces from that set out in article 38, paragraph 3, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, taking account of the principles contained in that article and recognizing that under the Convention persons under the age of 18 years are entitled to special protection.

2. Each State Party shall deposit a binding declaration upon ratification of or accession to the present Protocol that sets forth the minimum age at which it will permit voluntary recruitment into its national armed forces and a description of the safeguards it has adopted to ensure that such recruitment is not forced or coerced.

3. States Parties that permit voluntary recruitment into their national armed forces under the age of 18 years shall maintain safeguards to ensure, as a minimum, that:

(a) Such recruitment is genuinely voluntary;

(b) Such recruitment is carried out with the informed consent of the person’s parents or legal guardians;

(c) Such persons are fully informed of the duties involved in such military service;

(d) Such persons provide reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into national military service.

Article 6

3. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons within their jurisdiction recruited or used in hostilities contrary to the present Protocol are demobilized or otherwise released from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to such persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.

Article 7

1. States Parties shall cooperate in the implementation of the present Protocol, including in the prevention of any activity contrary thereto and in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons who are victims of acts contrary thereto, including through technical cooperation and financial assistance. Such assistance and cooperation will be undertaken in consultation with the States Parties concerned and the relevant international organizations.

2. States Parties in a position to do so shall provide such assistance through existing multilateral, bilateral or other programmes or, inter alia, through a voluntary fund established in accordance with the rules of the General Assembly.

http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-conflict.htm

According to Amnesty International, 300,000 children under the age of eighteen are currently participating in armed conflicts in more than thirty different countries on nearly every continent.

Myanmar is unique in the region, as the only country where government armed forces forcibly recruit and use children between the ages of 12 and 18. (Amnesty International)

While most child soldiers are in their teens, some are as young as seven years old. Children have been used as spies, as spotters, observers, message-carriers, and even as human shields, servants or to lay or clear landmines.

1. Children are uniquely vulnerable to military recruitment because of their emotional and physical immaturity. They are easily manipulated and can be drawn into violence that they are too young to resist or understand.

2. Technological advances in weaponry and the proliferation of small arms have contributed to the increased use of child soldiers. Lightweight automatic weapons are simple to operate, often easily accessible, and can be used by children as easily as adults.

3. Children are most likely to become child soldiers if _

a. they are poor,

b. separated from their families,

c. displaced from their homes,

d. living in a combat zone or

e. have limited access to education.

f. Orphans and

g. refugees are particularly vulnerable to recruitment.

4. Many children join armed groups because of_

a. economic or

b. social pressure, or because

c. children believe that the group will offer food or security.

d. Others are forcibly recruited, “press-ganged” or

e. abducted by armed groups.

“Myanmar army preys on children;

using threats, intimidation and often violence to force young boys to become soldiers. To be a boy in Myanmar today means facing the constant risk of being picked up off the street, forced to commit atrocities against villagers, and never seeing your family again,”….. Jo Becker Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.

“Myanmar has the largest number of child soldiers in the world and the number is growing”, Human Rights Watch said, “The overwhelming majority of Myanmar child soldiers are found in the national army, which forcibly recruits children as young as 11, although armed opposition groups use child soldiers as well.”

See (http://www.humanrightswatch.org/press/2002/10/burma-1016.htm)

Throughout Myanmar, children as young as eleven are being forcibly recruited into Myanma Tatmadaw. Whether with or without their parents’ knowledge or consent, they are sent to military training camps where they are routinely beaten, and brutally punished if they try to escape.

See (http://www.humanrightswatch.org/campaigns/crp/burma/index.htm)

“Myanmar has a poor human rights record, but its record on child soldiers is the worst in the world,” said Jo Becker, advocacy director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.

According to the accounts of former soldiers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 20 percent or more of Myanmar Tatmadaw’s 400,000 active duty soldiers may be children under the age of 18. There may be as many as 70,000 soldiers under the age of 18 in Myanmar Amy.

The 220-page report, “My Gun was as Tall as Me: Child Soldiers in Burma,” is the most comprehensive study of child soldiers in Myanmar. Drawing on interviews with more than three dozen current and former child soldiers.

Recruiters for Myanmar army_

  1. frequently apprehend boys at train and bus stations, markets and other public places,

  2. threatening them with jail if they refuse to join the army.

  3. The boys are given no opportunity to contact their families, and

  4. are sent to camps

  5. where they undergo weapons training,

  6. are routinely beaten,

  7. and brutally punished if they try to escape.

Human Rights Watch received several accounts of boys who were beaten to death after trying to run away.

Once deployed, boys as young as 12 _

  1. engage in combat against opposition groups,

  2. and are forced to commit human rights abuses against civilians,

  3. including rounding up villagers for forced labor,

  4. burning villages,

  5. and carrying out executions.

Human Rights Watch interviewed two boys, ages 13 and 15 at the time, who belonged to units that massacred a group of 15 women and children in Shan State in early 2001.

To counter their reluctance, the children are dulled by forcing them to commit brutalities and to take drugs like marijuana, amphetamines and “brown-brown” that inhibit guilt and fear.

Propaganda, revenge and fear of being left alone influence children to “voluntarily” stay in the army. Children have been both participants in and victims of atrocities.

Often recruited or abducted to join armies, many of these children some younger than 10 years old – have witnessed or taken part in acts of unbelievable violence, often against their own families or communities. Such children are exposed to the worst dangers and the most horrible suffering, both psychological and physical. What is more, they are easily manipulated and encouraged to commit grievous acts, which they are often unable to comprehend.

Children who are used as soldiers are robbed of their childhood and are often subjected to extreme brutality.

Physically vulnerable and easily intimidated, children typically make obedient soldiers.

1. Many are abducted or

2. recruited by force,

3. and often compelled to follow orders under threat of death.

4. Others join armed groups out of desperation.

5. As society breaks down during conflict,

6. leaving children no access to school,

7. driving them from their homes,

8. or separating them from family members,

9. many children perceive armed groups as their best chance for survival.

10. Others seek escape from poverty

11. or join military forces to avenge family members who have been killed.

The government of Myanmar continues to recruit large numbers of children into its army, many by force, despite its promises to stop this internationally-condemned practice, says a new report issued by Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB).

HREIB researchers conducted extensive interviews with more than 50 child recruits who fled to the Thai border for its report,

“Despite Promises: Child Soldiers in Myanmar Armed Forces.

Most of the children said they were coerced and deceived to join the army and suffer its horrible conditions in training camps and dangers of injury and death on the battlefield fighting insurgents.

Other children said they joined the military because of economic hardships and social pressures, conditions that make children in Burma easy targets for government recruiters.

The HREIB interviews show that child recruitment continues at an alarming rate even after the government, under international pressure, created a high-level committee that promised to handle the problem.

The “Committee for Prevention of Military Recruitment of Under-age Children” was formed in January 2004 after the U.N. Secretary-General reported to the U.N. Security Council that Myanmar was violating international laws prohibiting the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.

“This committee has done little to protect children from being recruited into the military,” says Aung Myo Min, the director of HREIB and the lead author of the new report.

“Neither does the committee take any serious action on complaints from family members of children currently serving in the armed forces.”

“By continuing to use and recruit children into the army and by failing to demobilize child combatants, the SPDC is in violation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he says.

HREIB calls on the SPDC government to immediately carry out its stated policy of prohibiting the recruitment of children and to punish those who violate this policy.

The SPDC government must play a central role in disarming, demobilizing, and rehabilitating former child soldiers and should invite assistance from international humanitarian organizations for the effort. In 2002 the SPDC claimed that the army was comprised entirely of volunteers aged eighteen and older. In May 2002, the Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the UN stated that: “the Government prohibits the enlisting of recruits under the lawful age [of 18 years]. The under age are not allowed to apply for recruitment. Action is taken on any infringement of the Regulation under the Defence Services Act.”

In January 2003, The Washington Post conducted an investigation along the Thai-Burma border and interviewed several former soldiers recruited as children. Reports emerged of children being kidnapped by soldiers while on their way home from school, at ports, bus terminals, and train stations.

In June 2003, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) reported recruitment of children as young as eleven or twelve, based on eyewitness accounts by refugees in Northern Thailand.

The Human Rights Watch in 2002. reported that the new recruits were typically sent to one of two large recruitment holding centres near Yangon and Mandalay.

Reports by former soldiers sent to the centres over the past four years indicated that approximately 35 to 45 per cent of new recruits were under the age of eighteen and 15 to 20 per cent were under the age of fifteen.

The youngest recruits were between eleven and thirteen.

Demobilization and child protection programs

There were no disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs available for child soldiers in Myanmar or neighbouring countries. Children suspected of desertion were

  1. subjected to beatings,

  2. long prison terms,

  3. forced re-recruitment, or in some cases,

  4. summary

  5. execution.

Recommendations

1. The UN Security Council should treat the continued recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar as a matter of high priority; and should consider taking appropriate steps to ensure that such recruitment and use is halted.

2. The Myanmar government should take immediate steps to end the forced and voluntary recruitment of children into the armed forces.

3. The government should permit either UN observers, or independent human rights monitors to visit Myanmar and observe recruitment practices within the armed forces.

4. The government should begin a dialogue with UNICEF and other appropriate UN agencies to establish DDR programs for child soldiers from both government and opposition forces.

5. DDR programs should take into account the specific needs of girls, former child soldiers who have attained the age of majority, and other vulnerable youth.

6. The government should ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict and declare a commitment to a “straight-18” standard for recruitment.

7. In cooperation with the ICRC, UNICEF, and nongovernmental organizations, conduct trainings in international humanitarian law and the rights of children for all soldiers, including officers and recruiters.

8. Educational programs and vocational training, and encourage children and their families to utilize such opportunities. Nongovernmental Organizations must support vocational and educational programs, particularly along border areas, including accelerated educational programs for displaced children, child soldiers, and others who missed out on a primary education or whose education has been interrupted.

9. Provide counseling and other assistance to help rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers.

10. Encourage opposition groups and the SPDC not to recruit children under the age of eighteen.

11. Need to debrief them, as they are usually brain washed to regard all non-burman ethnics as enemies.

12. We all need to regard any child soldier running away from border posts into neighbouring countries as refugees, not as deserters. International community, NGOs and UNSG must pressure or order the UNHCR to accept this basic concept.

13. UNHCR must provide a safe heaven for them. 14. UNHCR must work with WHO, UNICEF and NGOs to rehabilitate and resettle them.

15. UNHCR must work with WHO, UNICEF and NGOs to re-educate them.

16. As the SPDC had ignored the dozens of UNGA resolutions and Human Rights reports of various authorities, UNSC must vote to pressure SPDC to stop using child soldiers.

So, we hereby strongly requested to Dr Ibrahim Agboola Gambari and Prof. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro not to ignore our Child Soldier issue, to investigate and highlight the plights of the Myanmar Child Soldiers while performing your primary duties assigned by the UN, in Myanmar.

Thanking Your Honours,

Yours Humbly,

 

(Dr San Oo Aung)

On behalf of Child Soldiers

Myanmar Tatmadaw