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Myanmar’s military has attacked, maimed, and killed children across the country, according to a new United Nations (UN) report released on Tuesday. A UN expert said that there must be a concerted effort to ensure that children are no longer harmed under the Myanmar junta as human rights violations continue to rise.
“The junta’s relentless attacks on children underscore the generals’ depravity and willingness to inflict immense suffering on innocent victims in its attempt to subjugate the people of Myanmar,” said Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
The report revealed that at least 250,000 children were displaced by conflict, another 382 were maimed or killed since the Feb 1, 2021 military takeover. Much of the violence is carried out by air raids from fighter jets, or military shelling from the ground from junta forces, also known as the Tatmadaw.
“The junta’s attacks on children constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Andrews said. “Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and other architects of the violence in Myanmar must be held accountable for their crimes against children.”
Thai Enquirer has also reported on mass displacement taking place at the Thai-Myanmar border where countless children are negatively affected by the crisis. Andrews added that UN agencies found evidence that children were not only caught in the crossfire in attacks between junta forces and resistance fighters, but that they were deliberately targeted.
The UN research revealed that at least 142 children have been brutally tortured by Tatmadaw forces. Researchers said that children have been beaten, cut, stabbed, burned with cigarettes, and deprived of food and water. Over 1,400 have been arbitrarily detained, while 61 children have been held as hostages. Since the coup, at least 16 children have been killed.
“I felt I used to be free as a bird, but now it is like I am in a cage,” a 13-year-old girl in Magway Region told UN researchers.
“The fighting spread in September, and we fled again from our homes… I can no longer think of attending university after my highschool education. Sometimes I imagine it would be nice if all the incidents in which children were killed, arrested,and lost homes were just a nightmare,” says another 15-year-old girl from Kayah State.
Research suggests that 7.8 million children are currently out of school due to the crisis, and there have been at least 260 incidents where schools or educational personnel were attacked since the coup.
Poverty has driven at least 5 million children to become in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022. The crisis has also created additional human rights challenges, including child recruitment by armed groups, child labor, and human trafficking. The UN report said that girls are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation. Increased poverty can further produce militarization and instability, with effects that can last decades, according to researchers.
“We can no longer have regular meals like before,” a 17-year-old boy from Kayah State told UN researchers. “We have fewer meals and less amount of food these days. The elders at home said that we need to save food in case we need to run.”
Myanmar’s public health system has been devastated since the military takeover. And now the World Health Organization estimates that 33,000 children will die preventable deaths this year due to not having access to immunizations.
Tom Andrews, the Special Rapporteur, has called on the international community to do more to protect children from harm.
“The international community’s approach to the coup and the junta’s atrocities has failed,” Andrews added. “States must take immediate coordinated action to address an escalating political, economic and humanitarian crisis that is putting Myanmar’s children at risk of becoming a lost generation.”