With over one year and two months of the Myanmar people’s resistance against the terrorist Myanmar military’s attempted take over of the country, the international community must wake up and pivot away from a ‘business as usual’ towards the military junta, in support of the Myanmar people’s defense of democracy and protecting the most vulnerable. While the international community remains ineffective, children and youth are increasingly being killed, tortured, arbitrarily detained, sentenced to death and increasingly targeted with wanton airstrikes and artillery shellings by the military junta. Significant strides, by the international community, particularly the UN and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), must be taken to elevate the heinous crimes committed against children.
Since 1 February 2021, the military junta has killed at least 100 children according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, during his report to the Human Rights Council on 21 March 2022, but others like the Media Monitoring Committee have the numbers as high as 239, including a shocking 47 killed in March 2022 alone. Horrifyingly, these killings are increasing, including at least 10 children who were killed by the junta in the space of a week at the beginning of March. More and more children are being murdered due to airstrikes and shelling, particularly in Myanmar’s central regions of Magwe and Sagaing and ethnic areas of Karen, Karenni and Chin States. On 22 March, an eight-year-old boy was killed and several others were injured, including a teenage girl by relentless artillery shelling by the Myanmar military on civilians in Htan Be Hla Village in Ye-U Township, Sagaing Region.
In the early days of the protest movement against the failed coup, children were killed on sight, playing in the street or in their houses – such as 6-year-old Khin Myo Chit, killed in her father’s arms inside her home in Mandalay Region and 13-year-old Sal Wal Yan shot in the back of the head running away from junta soldiers while playing in a Yangon street, and whose body was taken and desecrated in an attempt to conceal the crime. Since then, the junta has perpetrated savage massacres of civilians, such as the Christmas Eve Massacre in Hpruso Township, Karenni State, where the junta massacred and burned at least 42 civilians, including at least three children and two Save the Children staff. Horrific killings like these still continue, such as in late March when two boys (six-years-old and eight-years-old) were shot and killed inside a car during a clash between the Myanmar military and the Karen National Liberation Army.
Tragically, these savage acts are nothing new. For decades, the Myanmar military has terrorized ethnic communities indiscriminately killing children, notably in Karen, Kachin, Shan, Chin, Karenni and Rakhine States. While the international community has been provided with ample evidence of atrocity crimes committed by the Myanmar military, collected by local civil society organizations, UN mandate holders and the UN Human Rights Council mandated Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar and Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the international community remains impotent in holding the Myanmar military accountable. To date, not a single perpetrator within the Myanmar military has been brought to justice.
Amidst the ongoing inhumane violence, children and young people are being arbitrarily detained in increasing numbers. The National Unity Government (NUG)’s Minister of Women, Youths and Children, Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe says that at least 287 children have been detained by the junta since 1 February, 2021. She explains to the Guardian that “When they could not find the people, they arrested the children as a ransom. They also ask the activist to come and be arrested so that this child will be released.” One such case of this is that of Su Myat Zaw, three-years-old, who is being held in detention at Insein Prison with her mother, Tin May Oo, and grandmother, Daw Kathy, for over a year after her father was suspected of participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Tin May Oo and Daw Kathy were both handed down three-year prison sentences last week, on bogus charges under 505a of the Penal Code, remaining in prison with Su Myat Zaw, while Tin May Oo’s other five children are outside the prison walls.
The junta’s depravity knows no bounds, as last week an 11-year-old Moe Lun was abducted, beaten and tortured in Mandalay by junta soldiers due to being suspected of being part of the Peoples’ Defence Force. Myanmar’s children and youth are also unlawfully being given hefty sentences, including the death penalty; 110 people including two children and many young people, have been unlawfully sentenced to death for minor acts, such as being in protests or conducting pro-democracy activities, deemed by the junta as “terrorism”.
The international community can collectively rally behind the Spring Revolution and the NUG, pivoting away from inaction and towards protecting the human rights of children. Children and youth make up a large proportion of the Spring Revolution, and are united in calling for genuine democracy, education reform, fundamental freedoms, rights of minorities including of the Rohingya and a complete rejection of the junta and a regression towards military dictatorship which their parents suffered through for decades. International children’s organizations, such as the UN and UNICEF, have been muted about the continued suffering of children in Myanmar. This could well be due to their working relationships with the military junta. Yet, these agencies must stop a ‘business as usual’ approach, and must take a stand and speak up about these ongoing crimes committed against children in Myanmar.
Furthermore, the international community can no longer defer Myanmar crisis to ASEAN, as the junta is non-compliant with the ineffective Five Point Consensus and ASEAN’s Chair Cambodia, under Hun Sen, has thrown in the towel on his abysmal attempts to end the crisis. Additionally, Myanmar military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, has repeatedly shunned ASEAN’s failing Five Point Consensus which includes calls for the cessation of violence and constructive dialogue between all concerned parties, instead vowing to ‘annihilate to the end’ any opposition. The international community must wake up and realize ASEAN has neither the capacity or collective political will to resolve the Myanmar crisis, nor do they support the will of the Myanmar people for a federal democracy.
While the solution to the current crisis lies in the hands of the people of Myanmar and their strength in continuing the revolution in defense of their democracy regardless of the international community’s inaction, the international community’s concrete and decisive actions in support of the Spring Revolution would change the game significantly to end the military’s impunity and thus the suffering of children, as well as the most vulnerable populations. No parent should have to bury their children, or have them subjected to the military junta’s terror campaign. The International community’s current actions in response to the military junta are clearly not enough. Immediate and further actions must be taken and these must include sanctions on jet fuel to the military junta to end airstrikes, a global arms embargo and tougher targeted sanctions on military leaders, military businesses and crony entities. Additionally, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child must respond to the junta’s violence against the children in Myanmar, including closely monitoring and investigating the grave crimes committed against them and make concrete recommendations to address justice and accountability, including reparations for victims and survivors.
 One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.
By 357 Civil Society Organizations
By 357 Civil Society Organizations
By Burma Campaign UK
By Human Rights Watch
By International Organization for Migration
By International Karen Organisation
By Karen Human Rights Group
By Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
By Myanmar Accountability Project
By National Unity Government
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management)
By Physicians for Human Rights
By Reporters Without Borders
By The White House
By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)
By United States Department of State
By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
By United Nations Secretary-General
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
By Altsean-Burma, Asia Democracy Network, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Burma Human Rights Network, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice and US Campaign for Burma
By International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
By Karenni Civil Society Network
By Karenni Civil Society Network
By Karen Human Rights Group
By The University of Queensland
By United Nations Children’s Fund
By United States Agency for International Development
Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”