Myanmar frees dozens of child soldiers

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Yangon -

Myanmar's army has freed 91 children and young people from its armed forces, the United Nations said on Friday, in the country's latest move towards ending the use of child soldiers.

The reformist government of the formerly junta-run nation committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in its “tatmadaw” army in a June 2012 pact with the UN.

A total of 364 children and young people have been released since then as the military has slowed - but not yet completely halted - its use of children.

The release was “an important step in ending the recruitment and use of children in the Myanmar Armed Forces”, the UN said in a statement.

But Shalini Bahuguna, representative for the UN children's agency UNICEF in the country, said “such discharges must be accelerated” to fully eradicate the practice.

There are no verifiable figures on how many children are currently serving in Myanmar's huge military, which has faced a slew of accusations over rights abuses, including the forced recruitment of children and other civilians to work as porters or even human mine detectors.

In January the army freed 96 children and young people from its armed forces - the largest single release of child recruits since the 2012 pact.

All of those freed were recruited as children, but some have since become adults.

A quasi-civilian regime led by former general Thein Sein has won praise and steered Myanmar out of decades of isolation.

But ending rights violations is a key demand of the international community, which has embraced reforms in the once pariah state since the end of outright junta rule in 2011. - Sapa-AFP


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