UN Agencies express shock at the use of children as human shields in Myanmar

In a statement, the Co-Chairs of the UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Violations against Children in Myanmar have expressed grave concern over circumstances of two children killed in fighting between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army in Buthidaung, Rakhine State. Their full statement reads as follows: 

“ On 5 October, two boys were killed in Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State, in crossfire between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army. This occurred after the children, as part of a group of 15 local farmers, were alleged to all have been forced to walk in front of a Tatmadaw unit to ensure the path towards a military camp was clear of landmines and to protect the soldiers from potential enemy fire. On the way, fighting broke out between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, after which the two boys were found dead with gunshot wounds. 

“We are saddened and shocked by this incident and our sincere condolences go to the families of the two boys. 

“We are concerned that this reported incident occurred within the 12 months of the delisting of the Tatmadaw for underage recruitment and use in the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) of 2020, and in Buthidaung Township, which has been a hotspot for the use of children by the Tatmadaw for non-combat purposes since mid-2019 according to verified reports.  We call for a full, transparent, and expedited  investigation of the incident and for anyone responsible for the use and for the killing of the children to be held accountable.” 

“The use of children for non-combat purposes by armed forces and groups should not be considered as a separate and lesser violation than the formal recruitment of children, and is criminalized in the Myanmar Child Rights Law. This egregious incident serves as a stark reminder that children are put at risk of being killed or injured whenever they are associated with armed forces and groups in any capacity or function, regardless of the duration of their association.” 

“We are also deeply concerned about the alarming increase of reports of killings and injuries of children in Myanmar. More than 100 children were killed or maimed in conflict during the first three months of 2020, amounting to more than half of the total number in 2019, and significantly surpassing the total number of child casualties in 2018.” 

“As Myanmar tackles the resurgence of COVID-19, we urge all parties to the conflict to intensify efforts to ensure children are protected from all grave violations, to ensure access to humanitarian assistance and services, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force where civilians are present.” 

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Maungdaw_District_in_Rakhine_State_(Arakan).png

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