Child Soldiering In Myanmar Criminology Essay

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Among the many consequences of civil conflicts, perhaps none is as heart-breaking or has as long-term impact as armed conflicts negative effects on children. In line with the definition of United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), child soldier refers to "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, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes." [1] Child soldiering is one of the worst forms of human trafficking. After the end of Cold War, child soldiering is neither new nor limited to most countries in the world. According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 children under 18 were recruited in armed conflicts worldwide. The majority of child soldiers are between 15-18 years old, some are only 7-8 years old. [2] For Myanmar, what is new is the extent to which the Myanmar army and ethnic armed groups have increasingly recruited and used children as combatants in armed conflicts. It was reported by United Nations that Myanmar has the most child soldiers in the world. [3] It's necessary to contribute a deeper explanation of the current situation of child soldiering in Myanmar, and its implications for the better countermeasures in the future.

Myanmar's child soldiering has been a critical threat, which is not only a threat to international security, but also damages the regional peace. The prolonged armed conflicts lead to violations of children's human rights, and deprives them of the access to education and health care. In Myanmar, a great number of child soldiers are killed and sexually abused in the armed conflicts and aftermath. Concerning the survival ones, psychological and physical harm often suffer permanent damages. [4] 

In 2002 the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force. It outlaws the involvement of children under age 18 in hostilities, raising the previous standard of age (15 years) set by the Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols. As well as requiring States to raise the age for compulsory recruitment and direct participation in conflict to 18, the Optional Protocol requires State parties to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment beyond the current minimum of 15. Under the serious criticisms and pressures of the international society, the Burmese government has been making efforts to criminalize child soldiering and promote the domestication of international norms against the recruitment of children. For example, the Burmese law enforcement continued joint operations with Thailand and China on cross-border child trafficking, as well as coordinations with the border control authorities of both countries. In Myanmar, the recruitment of children into the army is sentenced a criminal offense under Penal Code Section 374, which could result in imprisonment for up to one year, or a fine, or both. [5] Myanmar's military government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), claims that the minimum recruitment age is 18. [6] in addition, according to the UN secretary-general's office, 93 child soldiers were discharged from the Burmese army through government mechanisms during 2010. [7] 

Owing to the efforts made by the Myanmar government, six of the ethnic armed groups that have returned to the legal fold, namely, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the Kachin Independence Organization(KIO/KIA), the Karenni National People's Liberation Front (KNPLF), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Party, the Karen National Union-Karen National Liberation Army (KNU-KNLA) Peace Council and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) have openly committed themselves not to recruit child soldiers. [8] 

The prolonged armed conflicts among the ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar army has left children vulnerable to child soldiering. 随着武装冲突的持续与战æ--伤亡的增加,武装组织中成年战æ--人员的比例逐渐下降。尽管政府的政ç­-禁止招募18岁以下儿童,各武装组织与缅甸陆军只å¾-以较低的成本招募童兵以补充兵源. On the other hand, children are easily manipulated and influenced by military power, and the small arms and lighter weapons have been spreading in Myanmar, children are considered an efficient alternative to adult combatants, especially those who have become separated from their families, are especially at risk of being recruited by the Myanmar army and the ethnic armed groups.Moreover, the lasting ethnic conflicts, internally displaced ethnic groups' settlements to conflict zones, the failed reintegration of children and desire for revenge are additional contributing factors of child soldiering.

It is estimated that the Myanmar army is still the single largest employer of child soldiers in the world. The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch indicates that there might be 70,000 or more child soldiers in the Myanmar army, with several thousand of these being boys under 15 years old. [9] ILO indicated that recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar army. There were also reports that in some instances in Ayeyarwaddy division, children who have completed the village militia training were recruited into the Myanmar army. [10] Children are most vulnerable to recruitment when family and community protection systems are weakened. At the same time, the profits from child soldering could stimulate transnational criminal groups to weaken government attempts to establish rule of law. Some child soldiers were recruited from the street by "brokers", self-appointed agents with ties to local commanders and/or recruitment officers. Brokers can receive up to 40,000 Burmese Kyat (approximately US$ 30) and a bag of rice from local commanders for each new recruit. [11] Reports continued to show that, in addition to children who were formally recruited into the Myanmar Army, children were also used by the Myanmar Army for forced labour. In Kachin State of Myanmar, there were verified reports in late 2011 of children being used by the Myanmar Army alongside adults as porters on the front line.

The recruitment and use of children by ethnic armed groups is still in progress. According to "Annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict" issued by United Nations Human Rights Council on 28 June 2012, in Myanmar, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the Shan State Army South (SSA-S), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Myanmar army (Tatmadaw Kyi) and the integrated border guard forces are in the list of parties that recruit and use children. Based on the best estimates available for the 19 groups researched by Human Rights Watch, a possible 1,000 additional child soldiers with the 14 smaller groups not investigated. It was estimated that a total of just over 6,700 child soldiers in the combined armed opposition groups. [12] Obviously, the security stakes of child soldiering in Myanmar have been much higher than expectations.

Most of Myanmar's ethnic armed groups and Myanmar army have at least some child soldiers in their ranks. It is necessary to point out that vulnerable children of ethnic groups are highly exposed to recruitment by the ethnic armed groups and Myanmar army. Some armed groups impose recruit quotas requiring villages or households to supply a recruit. In such cases, the victim families often sends children under 18 so that it can retain the older, who are more productive family members for the household, or because they have no children over 18. According to United Nations, Information received from reliable sources in Northern Wa highlighted that, in cases where a household does not have boys to "contribute", the Wa authorities request girl children. Most of the children are aged 10 and above, although in some instances much younger children were recruited. [13] In Kayin state of Myanmar, information received by United Nations indicated that the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) had scaled up its recruitment efforts and many children reportedly have been recruited in 2009. [14] According to the reliable information received by United Nations, both boys and girls, including those under 15 years of age, are recruited and families that have more daughters than sons will, in most cases, send their girls. [15] 

In addition, displaced children are also at increased risk of suffering from rape and other forms of sexual violence in the camps. Some research indicates that children are especially vulnerable to sexual violence during military operations in civilian areas or during armed conflicts. [16] Although cases of sexual violence against children are sometimes reported, insufficient attention is paid to this particular dimension, and such violations remain largely undocumented, with some notable exceptions. As David Kyle and John Dale concluded, Burmese virgins are exportable and highly profitable commodity, partly because virgins would reduce risk of having HIV infection.

Myanmar is frequently reported as a sending country of human trafficking. [17] A significant portion of child trafficking is for the purpose of child soldiering. The children living in border areas with ethnic conflicts, especially Myanmar-China and Myanmar-Thailand border areas populated by ethnic groups, are most at risk for child soldiering. [18] Myanmar can not combat child soldiering on a bilateral basis because this issue often involves more than two countries. [19] In the Myanmar-China and Myanmar-Thailand border areas, many of Wa, Kokang, Shan, and Kachin peoples intermarry with Chinese and Thai, and maintain strong relationships across the border. Many children born in the border area haven't birth certificates, that is loophole to recruit child soldiers. Among the child soldiers from the Myanmar-China and Myanmar-Thailand border areas, many come from the Chinese side. They are mainly composed of the HIV orphans, victims of human trafficking and the orphans in the ethnic conflicts.

For Myanmar, several interlocking challenges have made children particularly vulnerable and created a large pool of would-be child soldiers.

First, short-term interventions lack of in-time identification. The child soldiering in Myanmar is quite challenging, because it is difficult in compiling accurate and reliable statistics, which is insufficient to secure justice for the victims. The Myanmar government established some procedures to identify cross-border child trafficking victims. For example, the Myanmar government established an anti-trafficking office within the Border Liaison Office along the Myanmar-China border in Kachin State. [20] But the Myanmar government has not yet developed a comprehensive system to identify victims among vulnerable groups. In addition, 在打击工作中,å-证工作涉及多æ-¹äººå‘˜,而这些人员的å-证工作很难做到. Hence,在遣返工作中,由于核实å-害人身份æ-¹é¢æ-¶é-´è¾ƒé•¿,有的没有å¾-到核实. Targeting human traffickers may be harder to accomplish in practice. [21] 

Children are recruited into fighting forces in a variety of ways: many are abducted or forcibly recruited; some are coerced to join through threats made against them or their families; others join "voluntarily" because they believe they have no alternative or are drawn by promises of much needed protection or food, education, money, or prestige; some children also join to avenge the killing of parents, other family members, or friends.

Second, the dilemma of misunderstanding. Once recruited as soldiers, children generally receive much the same treatment as adults. Should child soldiers be prosecuted for their crimes? This dilemma arises from a misunderstanding of the nature of child soldiers and combatants. Decades of civil war and the destruction of national infrastructure have severely weakened the judicial system in Myanmar. Many have been forced to commit atrocities and crimes against their families and communities. In these circumstances, it is difficult to determine whether a child soldier is a victim or a war criminal. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was concerned that children between 16 and 18 years are treated as adults under the penal law. [22] In Myanmar, some child soldiers escaped from the Tatmadaw or other armed groups, and crossed the border to seek the sanctuary from the neighbouring countries. However, these child soldiers had not yet been regarded as legal refugees, and were unable to enjoy the aid and support from UNHCR. [23] Although there is certainly some need for accountability of minor children who commit atrocities as part of their involvement in armed conflicts, prosecution of these children should be a step of last resort and assisting these children to reintegrate into their communities and into society should be the primary focus of addressing the problem of child soldiers.

Third, 信息严重不对称. Numerous programs and interventions for (former) child soldiers have been elaborated, often implemented as rehabilitation centers where children stay for a certain period after their demobilization from the armed faction, before trying to reunite them with their families and to reintegrate them into the community. However, reintegration of former child soldiers into the community and society might be hampered, especially through public reactions of revenge, stigmatization, and even rejection. Victims were unsure of the services offered by the Myanmar government and NGOs, not sure that they could trust the agents or policemen, and not worried that they would be recruited again. This confusion results from insufficient or confusing information to some degree, which makes it difficult for NGOs to respond to the problems of child soldiers. In some cases, NGOs have been able to successfully intervene to have child soldiers released, and they were sometimes allowed access to ex-child soldiers, but the Myanmar government continued to bar NGOs from operating shelters for ex-child soldiers.

Although the present peace-building and anti child soldering initiatives did make some achievements, the Myanmar government and the international society stiil need to do more be more targeted and strategic changes to prevent children from being recruited as soldiers.

First. Improvment of the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers. 建立国际é-´åäººå£è´©è¿çš„组织以及各国é-´ç›¸äº’通报情报讯息是必要的. Providing timely and reliable information to potential and would-be child soldiers about the dangers related with child soldiering. 应该加强对国民的法制教育与宣传工作,让国民看到人口贩运的危害性,以确保将正确的信息传递给目标人群.如果某项目未能达到预期结果,应该对它进行改进和结束. 制定相关政ç­-,尽可能地保护å-害者的隐私.通过定期评估及后续访谈,保护遣返的å-害者及其家庭免å-犯罪分子的威胁和报复. Educational training programme to inform armed forces and groups of the legal protection for children during armed conflict are equally important in increasing awareness of and compliance with international norms. The current top-down implementation should be shifted toward a bottom-up approch, which encourages extensive participation of communities.

Second. employer communications. In Myanmar, the common strategy used by many countries "to go up the chain" is not applicable to Myanmar. Because human trafficking organizations are loosely organized, which are small-scale and difficult to trace linkages. Therefore, tighter border controls implemented by Myanmar often yield the unintended consequences, which fail to address the demand for child soldiers. 在打击拐å-者的同æ-¶,使收买儿童者å-到应有的制裁,才能更有效地扼制拐å-犯罪.

Though it is difficult to find ways to lobby directly the non-state armed groups on this issue, there are some ways to convince the non-state armed groups to stop the use of child soldiers. For those non-state armed groups seeking international recognition, we can try to convince them that their respect to children rights can help to promote international recognition. Another suggestion is to convince those non-state armed groups fighting for self-determination in terms of their indigenous values that children are the hope of their future and the use of child soldiers will create problems which will affect their next generations.

Truly effective countermeasures to stop human trafficking should restrict the employers' access to child soldiers. Effective legal prevention mechanism. It is important to create child protection units in the military, which have played an important role in some countries. Third, It is nessesary to recognize the need to provide children with special protection because of their particular vulnerability, and considers children's immaturity if they commit offence during armed conflict. In addition, international law prohibits the imposition of the death penalty for any offence committed by children under the age of 18 years. If a child is to be tried in any jurisdiction for crimes, their treatment should adhere to international human rights standards specific to the rights of the child, in particular with regard to the age of criminal responsibility, fair trials, sentencing and detention.

In Myanmar, continuing fighting and insecurity make children vulnerable to re-recruitment and aceept the relevant reintegration support.

Girl child soldiersmay experience additional rejection because of rape, loss of virginity, single parenthood, or infection with HIV/AIDS. Therefore, special attention must be given to the ex-child solders with critical medical conditions or disabilities, such as health care, safe settlement and education. Children formerly associated with armed groups should be granted legal protection and access to timely rehabilitation and reintegration programmes. The sole orientation toward child soldiers' traumatic experiences needs to be broadened to the socioecological layers affecting child soldiers.

It's essential to investigate the differences between volunteers and forced recruits.

Forth. electronic verification systems. The fraudulent document industry has a long history of covering trafficked migrants, and also potentially provide the fraudulent, counterfeit passports or other entry documents to transnational crime organizations and terrorist groups. Biometric systems do not take individual's experiences and motivations into account. Concerning most of the trafficked migrants and child soldiers have a clean record, it will be impossible to stop them pass the border controls of Myanmar. Moreover, the biometric identifier (such as fingerprints) will not guarantee the efficiency of border control. For example, Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has caught some employees who were involved in the racket of preparing fake computerized national identity cards. Practical measures can be implemented by Governments to prevent under-age recruitment, such as free birth registration or alternative mechanisms for age verification.

There is no all-in-one approach for resolving child soldiering, and any research can not provide the final word on this issue. Recently, the Myanmar government signed a UN action plan pledging to abolish the use of children in the country's armed forces by 2014. The agreement includes a plan to immediately release all underage soldiers-defined as anyone younger than 18-not only from the government forces but also from ethnic armed groups. [24] Concerning this progress, people should be cautiously optimistic. Even the prolonged ethnic conflicts will end in the coming future, this does not mean that children will be used in armed conflicts any longer. The child soldier problem will be solved unless the root causes of the armed conflicts are resolved. Perhaps, signing an agreement won't solve the problem. [25] on the other hand, Given limited resources for both IOs and the state, it is critical that future research shed light on the programs that would make the strongest impact for the least costs.

Recommended Readings

NADRA Employees Caught in Fake ID Cards Racket. November 17. 2007,

United Nations Human Rights Council, Annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, 28 June 2012, A/HRC/21/38.