According to the U.S. State Department, the armed forces of Burma, or Tatmadow, are alleged to have used and recruited child soldiers. International monitors verified that the use of children in labor and support roles by certain military battalions continued to increase in conflict zones between April 2020 to March 2021, particularly in Rakhine and Shan States. While most reports involve the military’s use of child soldiers in support roles, there have also been limited reports of the military using children as combatants. Additionally, military-backed militias are also involved in child soldier recruitment and use in conflict settings.
In 2012, the Tatmadow signed a U.N. Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Since 2014, the government has issued directives prohibiting or reiterating prohibitions on the recruitment and use of child soldiers by the military. International observers have expressed concern that relevant legislation in Burma doesn’t adequately deter child soldier-related offenses owing to the military’s constitutionally-guaranteed power, which limits the government’s ability to address military child soldier use and recruitment. Burma’s July 2019 Child Rights Law increased penalties for engaging in child soldier recruitment or use, but the government has yet to implement those penalties as of March 2021. In 2020, the government approved a National Action Plan for 2020-2021 on the prevention of death, injury, and sexual harassment of children in armed conflict and formed a National Committee on Implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed conflict. The Ministry of Defense reported taking disciplinary action against a total of 58 members of the armed forces for child soldier recruitment from 2017 through 2020, though it did not report if it prosecuted any civilians involved in the practice. In addition, policy changes have streamlined the demobilization of child soldiers and allowed the United Nations to enter into child soldier demobilization agreements with all armed ethnic groups. Since 2016, the military released at least 284 soldiers suspected as being recruited as minors. According to the U.S. State Department, however, between April 2020 and March 2021, the government of Burma did not adequately institute measures to protect children from being recruited and used by military forces and continued to provide limited support to demobilized child soldiers.
For more information, see the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. More information on the situation in Burma can also be found in the U.N. Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict and country-specific report on Burma.