“Lost Generation” in Burma: When the junta attacks children


Posted July 08, 2022
Updated July 08, 2022

Protests against the coup in Yangon. (Source: Gephardt Daily)

Military attacks on children in Burma are targeted and systematic. The young generation is not the only victim of the armed conflict that has plunged the country into fire and bloodshed since the coup. They are the target of the military junta, which is thus attacking the future of his country. This is a condemnation of a UN report that calls on the international community to respond as strongly as it did to the crisis in Ukraine.

“The camp was shelled at 1pm. Among the dead were my two daughters. They were sisters. I don’t know if a piece or a bomb fell into them. Both of them were thrown in different directions. Their stomachs and lower bodies were torn to pieces. A

The story of the father who lost his two daughters, aged 12 and 15, overnight in a bombing at a refugee camp, unfortunately did not reveal the horrific actions of the military junta against the people alone. Burma. In contrast, the UN Human Rights Council recently released a cool report during its 50th session: Military attacks on children in Burma are targeted and systematic. The younger generation is therefore not the only victim of this armed conflict that is burning Burma. They are the target of the military junta, which is thus attacking the future of his country.

Willingness to control and legal nonsense

As published on 13 June, the disturbing text of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma is still unnoticed in the constant flow of news on media and social networks. However, using numerous statistics and a number of testimonies from children, adolescents and fragmented families, the report reveals the humanitarian and economic crisis that Burmese children in particular have suffered since the 2021 coup.

Indeed, since the military junta forcibly dismissed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in an attempt to impose its laws on Burma, the country has been plunged into conflict between the military and civilians. After the coup, several protests and lawlessness movements started. Response from Tatmadaw: A bloody repression that killed one thousand civilians, a statistic will be corrected at the top once the chaos is over.

Of these victims, 382 children were killed or injured, 60% of whom were shot and 142 were tortured. This reality of conflict highlights Tatmado’s desire for long-term suffering on the population over which it has demanded strict political control for decades. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (APP), a non-profit organization that monitors military repression in Burma from Thailand, 39 children under the age of 10 have also been detained. “Political prisoner” Legal nonsense for such young minors.

The Burmese justify these attacks and arrests by the presence of children among junta protesters or anti-junta militias. However, the argument goes against the fundamentals of humanitarian law, which explicitly prohibits harm to the lives and physical integrity of children during war. While individuals under the age of 15 will not be able to take up arms on behalf of either the Liberation Army or the military junta, it is also certain that their detention is legal nonsense under international law and even national law. The presence of youths under the age of 15 in various non-state armed groups nevertheless complicates their security and serves as an excuse for the military to shoot indiscriminately at civilians.

However, the tragic statistics published by the UN report confirm this: the inaction of the military is not only definitely a crime against humanity, but it also paints a picture of perceived cruelty in order to maintain control over a sinking country.

Catastrophic humanitarian situation

“A disturbing truth remains: no one knows the true extent of the plight of children and their families at the hands of the junta.” Warns the author of the report from the first page. Similarly, the long-term consequences of this conflict on future generations are still not fully understood.

The current humanitarian situation of Burmese children is catastrophic. According to the UN report, 4.5 million of them will live in food insecurity and 5 million will need humanitarian assistance. In addition, the conflict excluded 7.8 million of them from attending school. Coups and civil wars have exacerbated pre-existing socio-economic fragility, which already puts Burmese children and adolescents at risk and demands are even greater as they compromise their future. Burma has also been hit hard by the Covid-19 health crisis, weakly managed by the new government that concentrates a large portion of medical and human resources. The United Nations has already estimated in 2021 that the epidemic is at risk of doubling the number of people living below the poverty line in the country, especially women and children.

In 2022, the socio-economic situation does not seem to be improving: inflation has made some food inaccessible, families have gone into debt and electricity and internet networks are being cut regularly. Despite the signing of an international law of protest in the face of military repression, the withdrawal of large companies from the Burmese region has also contributed to the slowdown in the economy, investment and employment. These serial exits also pave the way for Chinese companies whose lack of consideration of social and environmental standards is less likely to improve the situation in many Burmese regions. For high school students, alumni and young graduates, future prospects will be even more declining, and for families, the way to meet the needs of their children will be further reduced. The drop-out rate after the conflict has reached alarming heights and the most affected children are the country’s minorities, such as the Karenis and the Rohingya.

Outcome: Ethnic and social divisions, the cause of the country’s insecurity for decades, and the risk of conflict escalating. Minority children, who were at extreme risk before the coup, are at risk of human trafficking, arranged marriages and physical and sexual violence. Residential areas and refugee camps in Kachin, Kayah and Rakhine states are particularly targeted by artillery attacks and shelling. The junta has arrested and detained hundreds of Rohingya children for Burma’s stateless population. “Invalid travel” When the latter tried to escape from the Rakhine state where they took refuge, or were forcibly taken prisoner, unhealthy and now in bombing camps. It is in this political, economic and social context that an entire generation must build its future.

Acting to save the future of a generation

This UN report is not only meant to distract and shock the reader about the atrocities committed by the junta on the most vulnerable and innocent part of the population. It highlights the very future intentional sabotage of the country and encourages action.

Young people fought bravely with pro-democracy fighters, as their parents did during student rallies in 1988, which were also severely repressed. But the Burmese government in exile does not seem to be able to help them. In February 2022, on Retrospective, Radio France reported the remarks of Burmese Energy Minister Mau Hutun Aung:

“It is true that the central government is not in a position to help young fighters. They have every right to be disappointed, but it has to do with the fact that we have not received any support from democracies that, while loudly saluting the courage of the Burmese people, do not provide real help. A

An opinion shared by the Burmese Special Reporter for which the response of the international community is insufficient. Its report specifically highlights that only 10.4% of the assistance currently needed in the country has been allocated. It also urges states not to forget the Burmese crisis: many democracies have in fact turned their attention to Europe, which has exclusively shared the atrocities caused by the Ukrainian conflict.

Nevertheless, solutions exist to help the population in the short, medium and long term and to protect their children. The report’s recommendations focus on a variety of ways to prevent the junta from financing. Target bans already exist but they could go further. Several activists and researchers have called on the government to impose sanctions targeting Myanmar’s gas sector. The state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which falls into the hands of the junta, makes it possible to finance a large part of its army and arms supplies. In this particular case, stopping this flow of money would directly reduce violence against civilians.

For its part, the flow of humanitarian aid should not only increase. It is also necessary to find intelligent methods to avoid confiscation by the armed forces, a particular ethnic group or local authorities. This assistance must take into account the specific needs of the affected population, especially families and minority children. Humanitarian corridors must be protected and the movement of the population must be removed. Education and information for all should be reintroduced as soon as possible, because we can still prevent these children from joining the “lost generation” list.

Don’t let cruelty pass. Even more so when it is directed against the youth who are determined to protect the fragile signs of democracy in their country, they have to face barbarism.

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About the author

Poe Paris, a science graduate, and INALCO, Elia Barrowd are passionate about the history and culture of Japan, where she lived, studied and worked. He is also interested in the humanitarian challenges of Southeast Asia, security issues in the South China Sea, and the geopolitical consequences of climate change.

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