Two hundred and seventy seven servicemen of the Burmese military, including 50 officers, have had action taken against them for recruiting child soldiers, according to Deputy Home Affairs minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Zan Myint.
Speaking to the lower house on Wednesday, the minister made the comments while responding to a formal question from MP Khine Maung Yee of Rangoon’s Ahlone Township. The MP requested information about the provision of birth certificates for children in both urban and rural areas to protect them from forced labour, abandonment and human trafficking, and recruitment into the military.
Kyaw Zan Myint also said that while there were no specific plans on the prevention of these issues, when perpetrators of abandonment of a child under 12 are caught they can be punished by up to seven years, while traffickers can be sentenced from 10 years to life imprisonment.
Burma’s government has previously been accused of inaction, and even complicity, on the matter of child soldiers.
Child Soldiers International (CSI), who released their latest report in January, have characterised Burma’s political crossroads as an “unprecedented opportunity” to solve the country’s child soldier crisis.
It is nearly impossible to get an accurate view of the scale of the child soldier problem in Burma. Low rates of birth registration, an inaccurate and decentralised military record system, and a lack of government forthcoming – factors that lend themselves to easily recruiting minors – make it hard for observers to gauge the numbers affected. Since the International Labour Organisation’s Complaints Mechanism on Forced Labour was established in 2007, it has received 1,293 complaints regarding child soldiers in Burma, but CSI say that this is not representative of the real numbers.