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Myanmar releases child soldiers from service

Armed forces release 96 children and youths in the country's largest single release of underage recruits.

Last updated: 18 Jan 2014 11:09
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The UN has an agreement with Myanmar's leaders to end the use of child soldiers [AFP]

Myanmar's army has freed 96 children and youth from its service, according to the United Nations.

It will not be possible to build a new Myanmar without ending the use and recruitment of children by the Tatmadaw and non-state armed groups once and for all.

Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF representative in Myanmar

The UN praised the military's move in a statement issued on Saturday, calling it an "historic step" towards ending the use of child soldiers in the former militarily-governed country.

The move showed "a strong commitment by the Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw [the country's armed forces] to end a practice that steals the lives, hopes, and dreams of children," said Bertrand Bainvel, a representative for the UN children's agency UNICEF in Myanmar.

It was the largest single release of child recruits in Myanmar since the country's government entered into an agreement with the UN in 2012 on the issue.

The army has released a total of 272 children and youth over the past 18 months, but has not completely stopped its use of children.

No record of verifiable figures exists to prove how many children currently serve in Myanmar's military.

 'A new Myanmar'

The Tatmadaw has faced a slew of accusations over rights abuses, including the forced recruitment of children and other civilians to work as porters and human landmine detectors.

The quasi-civilian regime, which replaced the junta-led government in 2011, has made many changes, including the release of political prisoners and the welcoming of opposition-leader Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament.

Myanmar released 42 children in September 2012 and a total of 134 in 2013.

All of those freed were recruited as children, but some have since become adults.

The UN has also expressed concern about the recruitment of children by armed rebel groups.

"It will not be possible to build a new Myanmar without ending the use and recruitment of children by the Tatmadaw and non-state armed groups once and for all," Bainvel said.

Civil conflicts with ethnic minority groups have gripped the country since its independence from British Colonial rule in 1948.

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AFP
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