WASHINGTON — Myanmar is still recruiting and using child soldiers, despite embracing democratic reforms and a U.N. agreement to end the practice, a human rights group said Wednesday.
Child Soldiers International reports levels of child recruitment have declined, and 42 children have been released from Myanmar’s army since the government signed the agreement in June, but the outlawed practice continues, due to a lack of political will to implement safeguards.
Myanmar is one of about two dozen countries worldwide found by the U.N. to violate international law on the rights of children in armed conflicts. Ending the use of child soldiers has been among the litany of reforms sought by the U.S. and other Western nations that have restored diplomatic ties with the Southeast Asian nation as it has begun to shift from five decades of oppressive military rule.
The government of President Thein Sein has shown willingness to reform, but the rights group says authorities have failed so far to monitor army recruitment systematically, and recruitment patterns appear unchanged from the past decade.
“Military officers and informal recruiting agents continue to use intimidation, coercion, and physical violence to obtain new recruits, including under-18s,” says the report, which is based on three research trips in Myanmar and along its border with Thailand, the latest in December.