Burma will enforce a law against child soldiers and allow the U.N. access to military units to check for underage recruits, the U.N. said on Wednesday, following the signing of an agreement in Naypyitaw, the capital.
The Joint Action Plan said Burma would halt child soldier recruitment and discharge existing recruits under age 18. The government will also help negotiate with non-government armed groups in the country to release child soldiers from their ranks.
“We will be able to work closely with the Ministry of Defence and visit various military units to identify under-age children if any, have them registered and released and provide assistance for their reintegration with their families,” Ramesh Shrestha, the country representative for the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told Agence France Presse.
The U.N. said the plan was signed in the capital by Major General Ngwe Thein (director of the Directorate of Military Strength, Ministry of Defence) and Major General Tin Maung Win (Vice Adjutant General, Myanmar armed forces) on behalf of the government.
“The most important work begins now to ensure that children are released from the Tatmadaw as soon as possible and are returned to their families and communities and receive support to promote their well-being, learning and livelihoods,” said a U.N. official.
The UN secretary-general in an annual report to the Security Council listed eight parties implicated in the recruitment and use of children: the Tatmadaw [government armed forces], the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Liberation Army, Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, Karenni Army, Shan State Army-South and the United Wa State Army.
The issue of child soldiers in Burma has been a long-standing contention with the International Labour Organization and other groups.
The signing of the document comes as the United States has issued a list of countries that use child soldiers, triggering a law that prevents military aid money from being given to governments that use child soldiers.
A recent U.N. report accused the Burmese military as well as six armed ethnic rebel groups of being “persistent perpetrators” of the recruitment and use of children.
The agreement is part of efforts by the new government to merge with the international community. It recently signed an agreement with the International Labour Organisation to end forced labour by 2015.
Meanwhile, the U.S State Department this week issued a list of seven countries that use child soldiers, including Burma. A U.S. act says military aid should not go to governments that conscript children younger than 18 or use them in hostilities.
The president has approximately three months to determine whether the act’s prohibitions on military aid will automatically go into effect or he will give some governments a pass by granting waivers.