Time is running out to save Myanmar’s stricken generation, the UN child rights committee warned today, urging the international community to take swift action to protect the country’s children.
Citing alarming findings in a report by the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the committee said 7.8 million children in the country remain out of school, 250,000 are internally displaced, and children have reportedly been abducted and recruited for armed conflicts.
The committee issued the following statement on 29 June:
Children continue to bear the brunt of the Myanmar military’s ongoing attacks to assert control over the territory.
At least 382 children have been killed or maimed by armed groups since the February 2021 coup.
In addition, over 1,400 children have reportedly been arbitrarily arrested since the coup. Children who took part or were suspected of having participated in protests are among those detained by the military. At least 274 child political prisoners remained in the military’s custody as of 27 May this year.
The military also takes children of human rights defenders hostage to pressure their parents to surrender. According to the latest report by the special rapporteur, at least 61 children are currently being held hostage by the junta.
Rohingya children have been arrested and detained for alleged migration-related offences. Torture and ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, have allegedly been inflicted on these children.
The number of children being abducted for recruitment purposes is on the rise, as well as children joining local defence groups and being particularly exposed to the danger of being killed or injured. They have been dispatched to participate in armed conflicts.
The economic and humanitarian crises are having devastating impacts on children and fuelling all forms of violence and exploitation.
The committee is deeply concerned that the military intentionally impedes access to food, funds, medical aid and communication to weaken the support base for armed resistance and provoke fear. Child trafficking and child labour are reportedly on the rise in Myanmar.
According to UN figures, the estimated number of internally displaced people since the coup in the country has passed 700,000, including more than 250,000 children, as of 1 June 2022.
More than half of the country’s child population, about 7.8 million, remain out of school. The UN has documented 260 attacks on schools and education personnel since the coup, and 320 cases of the use of schools by armed groups between February 2021 and March 2022.
It is estimated that 33,000 children will die from preventable causes in 2022 merely due to the lack of routine immunisations. In addition, 1.3 million children and more than 700,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women require nutritional support. As a result, experts warn of a looming food crisis and a dramatic increase in rates of childhood malnutrition.
The rights of children in Myanmar must be respected and protected under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, both ratified by Myanmar, as well as under international humanitarian law.
The committee urges Myanmar’s military to cease involving children in the hostilities, stop taking children hostage, end unlawful detention and torture and ill-treatment of children in captivity, and release all detained children immediately and unconditionally.
Perpetrators of atrocity crimes against children must be held accountable before impartial and independent courts.
The committee also reiterates its call for the UN and civil society organisations to have safe and unrestricted access to deliver assistance and services to Myanmar’s most vulnerable children.
The committee calls on the international community to urgently reassess and redesign the global response to the crises in Myanmar, prioritise children’s rights over other considerations, and take concrete measures to alleviate their suffering. – UN Treaty Bodies