Myanmar: The crisis takes a heavy toll on children

On the ground, the children have endured the onslaught of “constant attacks by the army” to assert their control over the region. At least 382 children have been killed or injured by armed groups since the February 2021 coup.

Also, more than 1,400 children have been reported arrested indiscriminately since the coup.

According to the committee, children who have participated or are suspected of participating in the protests are among those detained by the military. As of May 27, 2022, at least 274 child political prisoners were still being held by the military.

Photo: ILO / Marcel Crozett

A homeless family in Rangoon, Myanmar.

Children are held hostage to pressure their parents

This wave of repression does not spare Rohingya children who have been arrested and detained on “immigration charges”. “These children have been accused of sexual abuse and abuse.”

According to the committee, the soldiers held the children of human rights defenders hostage and pressured their parents to surrender. The junta currently holds at least 61 child hostages, according to the latest report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

The children were reportedly abducted and recruited for armed conflict. The number of children abducted for recruitment is increasing, as is the number of children who join local advocacy groups and are particularly at risk of being killed or injured. “They were sent to take part in the armed conflict,” the expert said, adding that child trafficking and labor were on the rise in Myanmar.

This year, 33,000 children will die due to preventable causes

In terms of education, more than half of the country’s children, estimated at 7.6 million, are still out of school. The United Nations has documented 260 attacks on schools and education workers since the coup, and 320 incidents of school use by armed groups between February 2021 and March 2022.

Moreover, economic and humanitarian crises have a devastating effect on children and incite all forms of violence and exploitation. The committee is deeply concerned that the military is deliberately blocking access to food, funding, medical assistance and communications in order to weaken and intimidate the armed resistance support base.

The committee estimates that 33,000 children will die of preventable causes in 2022, simply because of a lack of regular vaccinations. Also, 1.3 million children and more than 700,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women need nutritional support. As a result, experts are warning of a worrying food crisis and a dramatic increase in child malnutrition.

Students return home from school in Loikao, Kayah State, Myanmar.

UNICEF / Min Zaire OO

Students return home from school in Loikao, Kayah State, Myanmar.

The international community must prioritize children’s rights

The Committee therefore reiterates its call on the United Nations and civil society organizations to ensure safe and unrestricted access to aid and services for the most vulnerable children in Myanmar.

In the face of these abuses against children, the committee called on the Myanmar military to stop engaging in child hostility, to stop taking children hostage, and to stop illegal detention.

It also calls for an end to the abuse and mistreatment of children in captivity and the immediate and unconditional release of all detained children. “The perpetrators of atrocities against children must be held accountable before an impartial and independent court,” the expert stressed.

The Committee urges the international community to urgently re-evaluate and re-evaluate the global response to the crisis in Myanmar, to prioritize the rights of children over all other considerations, and to take firm steps to reduce their suffering.

According to UN figures, the estimated number of internally displaced people since the coup on June 1, 2022 is 700,000, including more than 250,000 children.

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