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Myanmar: Children and Armed Conflict

June 28th, 2018  •  Author:   UN Security Council Secretary-General  •  7 minute read


  1. While the national peace process between the Government of Myanmar and several armed groups continued, long-standing conflicts in Kachin and Shan States persisted. In addition, on 25 August, armed attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against Myanmar police posts in northern Rakhine State triggered an immediate response from Myanmar Armed Forces, including the Border Guard Police and Tatmadaw, affecting primarily the Rohingya community. Following the Government’s response, a situation of lawlessness ensued, which further compounded the vulnerability of civilians. In all these regions, the security situation remains volatile and grave violations against children continue to be documented.
  2. With respect to the situation in Rakhine State, given that the majority of the affected population fled to Bangladesh, a specialized team of monitors was dispatched to camps in the border area to undertake monitoring and verification of alleged violations against children. Information from this monitoring mission is presented in paragraphs 135 to 137 below.

Grave violations

  1. In 2017, the United Nations documented 438 cases of the recruitment and use of children, 38 of which were verified. Among those cases, 285 date from previous years.
  2. The vast majority of documented cases were attributed to the Tatmadaw, including 166 cases of formal recruitment of children (as young as 13) and the informal or temporary use of about 200 children, mainly for maintenance or cleaning duties.
  3. The United Nations verified 39 cases of the recruitment and use of children by armed groups were verified, 35 of which were attributed to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and four cases to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
  4. The United Nations verified the detention of three boys for alleged association with armed groups and one for alleged “desertion” from the Tatmadaw. In addition, five cases of the military detention of suspected minors (recruited before turning 18) by the Myanmar Armed Forces for alleged “desertion” were documented. After the Myanmar Armed Forces were notified, the suspected minors were sent back to their regiment and placed on light duty, pending verification of their age.
  5. The United Nations verified 29 incidents of the killing and maiming of children, involving 47 children (36 boys, 11 girls) in Kachin and Shan States. Landmines and explosive remnants of war continued to be the primary causes of child casualties in those two states (21 incidents), while eight crossfire incidents were attributed jointly to the Tatmadaw and armed groups.
  6. The United Nations verified three cases of sexual violence committed against four girls aged as young as 7. Cases were attributed to the Tatmadaw, KIA and a people’s militia in Shan State (one each). In one incident, a Tatmadaw soldier was court-martialled, sentenced to one year of imprisonment and permanently dismissed from the Tatmadaw.
  7. A total of 15 attacks on schools were documented during the reporting period. Incidents included damage to a school owing to an armed clash between Tatmadaw and TNLA elements, and attacks on school personnel by TNLA, including the rape of a middle school director in Kyaukme township, Shan State.
  8. The United Nations documented 12 incidents of child abduction (14 boys, 3 girls). 10 incidents were attributed to KIA, mainly for the purposes of the recruitment and use of children, while one incident each was attributed to the Tatmadaw and TNLA. Most of the children affected were released after a few days or weeks.
  9. Access for humanitarian organizations, particularly in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States, further deteriorated in 2017, affecting displaced people and other affected civilians in need of humanitarian assistance. Since April 2016, international humanitarian organizations have been refused permission by the Government to distribute food or other relief supplies in areas beyond Government control. Internally displaced persons located in those areas were instructed to travel to designated distribution points in Government-controlled areas in order to collect relief supplies.

Grave violations in northern Rakhine State

  1. The United Nations verified the use of 53 boys in northern Rakhine State, largely by the Border Guard Police (47 boys), including for camp maintenance, construction and the carrying of equipment. Information on the recruitment and use by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army of boys, aged as young as 10, was also documented and one case was verified. The fear of reprisals by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against refugees in Bangladesh for sharing information on the violations perpetrated by the group may have impeded a more complete documentation of such incidents.
  2. The United Nations verified the killing (196) and maiming (24) of 220 children (133 boys, 51 girls, 36 sex unknown). All those child casualties occurred during operations by the Border Guard Police and Tatmadaw across 28 villages in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
  3. The United Nations documented 41 cases of rape by the Tatmadaw, including the gang rape of girls as young as 10. Ten cases were verified, including that of a 14‑year-old girl in Maungdaw township, who was seized and gang-raped by two Tatmadaw soldiers before being killed in front of her mother and three siblings.

Developments and concerns

  1. I recognize the progress of the Government on the implementation of its action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar Armed Forces, including through the release of 49 children from the Tatmadaw in 2017, the continued provision of access for monitoring and monthly meetings with the United Nations for joint case reviews of alleged underage recruits. I call on the Government to build on these achievements in order to reinvigorate its road map towards compliance by further accelerating the verification and release of children, ensuring that civilian and military perpetrators of child recruitment are held to account and bringing to a halt the informal association of children with its forces. Children formerly associated with armed forces or groups should be seen primarily as victims, treated in line with international juvenile justice principles and their swift release and reintegration should be prioritized whenever possible.
  2. My Special Representative visited Myanmar in May 2018 and held constructive discussions with the Government, including on the speedy completion of the existing action plan, the expeditious passage of the draft child law, the inclusion of child protection issues in the ongoing peace dialogue and on the question of permission to enter Rakhine State to document violations. The Government made a commitment to prioritize these issues.
  3. I commend the Kachin Independence Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council and the Shan State Army for their engagement with the United Nations on child protection and their commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, and reiterate my call on the Government to facilitate the signature and implementation of action plans with listed armed groups, as suggested by my Special Representative during her latest country visit.
  4. I am concerned by the verified recruitment and use of children in northern Rakhine State and credible reports of the killing and maiming of children in a large-scale massacre of Hindus in Maungdaw township on 27 August, allegedly by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army elements. I underline the need for intensified monitoring and verification of grave violations perpetrated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, in particular in Rakhine State, and call upon the group to take immediate action to end and prevent such violations and to refrain from issuing threats to potential witnesses of grave violations against children.
  5. I am furthermore deeply concerned about the grave violations against children in northern Rakhine State following the August 2017 attacks, in particular cases of the killing, maiming and rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, and strongly urge the Government of Myanmar to immediately allow unimpeded access for child protection actors to conflict-affected areas, including Rakhine State, and to conduct transparent investigations into the allegations of grave violations against children and ensure support services for survivors and returnees, as discussed with my Special Representative.

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