Last year’s coup and the military’s ongoing attacks to assert control have taken an enormous toll on children in Myanmar, the UN said on Wednesday.
At least 382 children have been killed or maimed by armed groups since the February 2021 coup, while more than 1,400 children have reportedly been arbitrarily arrested, according to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“Children who took part or were suspected of having participated in protests are among those detained by the military. At least 274 child political prisoners remained in the military’s custody as of 27 May this year,” read a UN statement.
“Time is running out to save Myanmar’s stricken generation,” the committee warned, urging the international community to take swift action as “children continue to bear the brunt” of the junta’s violent actions.
The call for intervention comes as Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, as special envoy of the current chair of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), leads a delegation to Myanmar on a five-day trip.
Cambodia is the current chair of the regional group of 10 nations this year, and this is Sokhonn’s second visit to the country to seek the implementation of a five-point plan drawn up by ASEAN after Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was deposed by the military junta.
While Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s history is replete with junta regimes, the latest coup has been met with mass civil unrest. The military has used brutal force in its attempts to quell dissent and killed more than 2,000 people, according to a local monitor.
The UN estimates that more than 700,000 people were internally displaced in the country as of June 1, including more than 250,000 children.
The committee said 7.8 million kids are still out of school, with many “reportedly … abducted and recruited for armed conflicts.”
It accused Myanmar army of “taking children of human rights defenders hostage to pressure their parents to surrender.”
At least 61 children are currently being held hostage by the junta, the statement added.
“Rohingya children have been arrested and detained for alleged migration-related offences. Torture and ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, have allegedly been inflicted on these children,” the committee said.
It also expressed deep concern over the Myanmar military’s moves to intentionally impede “access to food, funds, medical aid, and communication to weaken the support base for armed resistance and provoke fear.”