August 31, 2018 / 10:05 AM / 2 months ago

Myanmar military releases 75 child soldiers from service

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s armed forces released 75 children and young people from military service on Friday, the United Nations said, amid international outrage over alleged abuses committed by troops in the country’s numerous ongoing conflicts.

Myanmar has now discharged 924 underage recruits since signing up to a joint action plan on child soldiers with U.N. agencies in June 2012, said Knut Ostby, the United Nations resident humanitarian coordinator for Myanmar, and June Kunugi, representative of the U.N.’s children’s fund, Unicef, in a joint statement.

The discharge was “one more positive development in the government’s effort to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children within the Tatmadaw,” they said.

Both the military - known as the Tatmadaw - and the ethnic guerrilla groups it has been fighting for decades have been blacklisted by the United Nations for using child soldiers. The United States took Myanmar off its list of the worst offenders in the use of child soldiers in 2017, before reinstating it this year.

The Tatmadaw and seven other groups remained “‘persistent perpetrators’ in the recruitment and use of children in Myanmar,” the United Nations said.

Spokespeople for the Myanmar military and the government were not immediately available for comment.

Myanmar’s military was condemned internationally for human rights abuses including the recruitment of child soldiers during half a century of military rule.

Allegations of abuses have continued to be levelled against Myanmar soldiers despite a transition from full military rule that saw Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi assume control over the civilian administration in 2016.

In the western Rakhine state, the military has launched harsh crackdowns in response to attacks by Rohingya Muslims insurgents since 2016, sending hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

U.N.-mandated investigators on Monday accused the army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, of overseeing a campaign with “genocidal intent” against the Rohingya and recommended he and other senior officials be prosecuted.

The International Criminal Court is considering whether it has jurisdiction over events in Rakhine, while the United States, the European Union and Canada have sanctioned Myanmar military and police officers over the crackdown.

Reporting by Shoon Naing; editing by Simon Lewis & Simon Cameron-Moore

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