Recently, STAND published a blog post addressing the presence of child soldiers in military combat operations by Tatmadaw, the Burmese army, and ethnic rebel groups in eastern Burma. Since then, the United Nations has taken impressive strides towards ending the abuse of children and use of child soldiers in Burma. On August 4, the UN announced that it would send a team to Burma to push the junta and ethnic rebel groups to end the use of child soldiers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has been diligent in documenting the use of child soldiers by military and paramilitary groups. According to Reuters, Ban’s June report accused the Burmese junta of conducting “‘grave violations’ against children” in Burma. In the same article, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for children and armed conflict, noted “positive developments” regarding the issue of child soldiers and the release of some children from military service. Given the reportedly vast population of child soldiers in the Burmese military, however, the release of “some children” is insufficient according to to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Accordingly, the international community must push the Burmese junta, as well as rebel groups operating in ethnic minority regions, to end the abuse of children and use of child soldiers in combat operations. On August 4, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1882, concerning the abuse of children in armed conflicts. The resolution noted Burma’s military, the Karen National Liberation Army, the Kachin Independence Army, and the Shan State Army-South, among others, for their use of children in armed conflict. The resolution intends to strengthen its monitoring infrastructure regarding the abuse of children in armed conflict, but does little to deter actions by organizations involved in such actions. The resolution serves primarily as a “name and shame” list for countries and insurgent groups. As John Boonstra of UN Dispatch rightly asked, “how much shame can child murderers really have?” While an important step towards revealing the extent of the child soldier usage in armed conflict, the UN resolution remains weak on deterrence. In order to limit the abominable use of child soldiers, the international community must take a harder line on the Burmese military and ethnic rebel groups. The US has passed broad-reaching sanctions against the Burmese regime, but the international community must place greater pressure on Burma’s security partners (Thailand, Russia, and China) and weapons suppliers (Russia, China, Ukraine, Israel) to sway Burma’s hand on its use of child soldiers. Only through conscientious global action may the international community see a shift towards a just application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.