Myanmar Military releases nearly 70 Child Soldiers
June 23, Yangon, Myanmar : Myanmar's military released 70 child soldiers on Friday, its first release this year as part of a slow process to end years of forced recruitment of underage fighters that began under the former junta.
There are no actual figures on how many children are still among the estimated 500,000 troops that serve in Myanmar's military or the ethnic rebel armies. The state's army has released almost 850 children and young people since signing a pact with the United Nations in 2012, the year after the former junta ceded power ending a brutal 50 year reign.
UNICEF's Myanmar representative Bertrand Bainvel said, “It is much more difficult to recruit a child today than it was four years ago,". Citing the military's efforts to strengthen age checks and centralise recruitment. But experts say children remain at peril as new underage recruits continue to trickle into the military and ethnic armed groups waging insurgencies against the state.
Many child soliders are sent to war areas such as the northeastern states of Kachin and Shan, where the army is fighting several rebel groups who also use child soldiers. UNICEF has been stepping up efforts to negotiate with those groups but none have officially started releasing underage fighters.
The Oslo Times International News Network