Child Soldiers
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The Burmese military is notorious for its use of child soldiers. More than 5,000 children are currently serving in the military, not including those who were recruited as children but are now past their 18th birthdays. The Burmese government has long refused to ratify the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Yet on June 27, 2012, after five years of negotiation, the Burmese government signed a joint action plan with the UN to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in the Tatmadaw (the Burmese military) and Border Guard Forces.

Regrettably, the Burmese government has been non-compliant in implementing the Burma-UN joint action plan on child soldiers.

On June 27, 2013 U.S. Campaign for Burma issued a joint NGO statement, which provides an overview of the Tatmadaw's recruitment and use of child soldiers and recommendations for future action. 

Child Soldiers International defines a child soldier as:

any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies or for sexual purposes. 

Only 66 children have been released by the Burmese military since the “action” plan was signed. Children continue to be recruited and deployed in areas of armed conflict, notably in the military’s offensive war against the Kachin ethnic group in northeastern Burma. From September 2012-March 2013, the Tatmadaw recruited nearly 40 more children. The Burmese government has deliberately inhibited the process of demobilizing children by barring the UN Country Task Force from visiting military sites to monitor the release of children.

Child Soldiers International’s January 2013 report, Chance for Change: Ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar, documents the military’s recruitment tactics. Rural children are often recruited on their way to school or when looking for work. In the city, children are recruited at railway stations, bus terminals, and markets. Poor and uneducated children are the most likely to be recruited, and recruiters have been known to use threats and force against them. Children who refuse can be shackled and fettered; many will never see their families again. Children who do manage to escape from the Tatmadaw are detained and treated as adult deserters.

The Burmese government’s continued use of children in conflict is an egregious violation of international law. The Burmese government must implement the joint action plan fully by identifying, registering, and discharging all children present in the ranks of the Tatmadaw and the Border Guard Forces, and take all necessary measures to prevent recruitment of children into the military.


ChildSoldiers2015 January 2015: Under the radar: Ongoing recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar army

by Child Soldiers International – January 2015. This report addresses the patterns of child soldier recruitment in Burma and provides reccomendations to stop this practice.


CSIreportlearn May 2013 update: Chance for Change

by Child Soldiers International – May 2013. This is a briefer updating information from the January 2013 Chance for Change report. Photo credit: Portia Watson, Burmese Refugee Project, Mae Hong Son, Thailand


CSIreportlearn Chance for Change

by Child Soldiers International – January 2013. This report by the Child Soldiers International offers an overview of child soldiers in Burma and demonstrates the Burmese Army's deliberate recruitment of child soldiers despite signing the joint action agreement with the UN last year.


HRWcs07 Louder than words

by Child Soldiers International – October 2012. This report discusses the vast disparity between words and actions by the Burmese government regarding the use of child soldiers in Burma. Photo credit: Portia Watson, Burmese Refugee Project, Mae Hong Son, Thailand


CSI2012 Sold to be Soldiers

by Human Rights Watch - November 2007. This report by HRW dates back to 2007 but details the fundamental issues regarding child soldier recruitment in Burma and why it persists today.