Human rights in Burma | More than 100 Burmese children tortured by the junta

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma (Myanmar) has raised the alarm about the situation of the country’s children, who are regularly attacked by the ruling military junta and tortured in detention regardless of their age.

Posted at 6:00 am

Marc Thibodeau

Marc Thibodeau
The press

Some of them had their nails and teeth pulled out, denounces Tom Andrews, who sees these “war crimes” as an illustration of the “senseless” measures the generals are prepared to take to quell the uprising caused by their coup in February 2021.


PHOTO ARIF KARTONO, ARCHIVE OF AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma

It is absolutely critical that we not only pay attention to the situation of these vulnerable children, but also act to protect them.

Tom Andrews during an intervention before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Wednesday

In a detailed situation report, the UN representative reports that many children were initially present at the peaceful street demonstrations after the military coup.

As the crackdown began, many found themselves in the soldiers’ crosshairs and remained targets after many opponents of the junta took up arms and formed local defense groups determined to fight to overthrow Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, which is in prison now.

The targeted children

In particular, in March soldiers were filmed opening fire on thickets where a family with five children was hiding in central Mon state.

“Even if they are children, don’t underestimate them,” one of the soldiers shouted, encouraging the others to shoot. A 9-year-old boy was killed instantly and his 6-year-old brother later died in hospital.

Extrajudicial executions of children are also reported. At least 17 minors died shortly after they were arrested by soldiers, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thailand-based nonprofit organization that documents the ongoing crackdown.

The bodies of four boys were found in a toilet pit in Kayah state in January 2022, days after they were arrested along with a group of adults.

Since the beginning of the civil war, more than 382 children have been killed or injured by fire from armed groups, according to the UN reporter, who attributes more than 60% of these deaths to targeted shots by soldiers or ill-considered attacks on the civilians present. Most of the other victims were hit by mines, which are plentiful in the country, or caught in the crossfire during the fighting.

Nearly 1,500 children have also been imprisoned since the conflict broke out, and hundreds remain behind bars today.

Same fate as adults

According to the AAPP, 39 young people under the age of 10 are considered “political prisoners”, although Burmese law does not recognize criminal responsibility under that age.

Anyone suspected of belonging to local defense groups is “systematically tortured,” according to the UN, which has documented 142 such cases.

The torturers use the same techniques on them as they do on the adults.

In addition to pulling teeth and nails, soldiers are said to have subjected children to mock executions, tried to get them to talk by burning them with cigarettes or even hitting them.

A 17-year-old said his prison guards pulled a bag over his head and hit him repeatedly with their rifle butts before kicking him in the face. They then reportedly hit him “repeatedly” to get him to say he was targeting the police.

The denunciation of the plight of the Burmese children comes as the conflict in the country continues unabated.

More than a million people, including 300,000 children, have been displaced by the fighting, said Andrews, who is concerned that barely 10% of the UN’s requested funds to provide humanitarian aid to the population have been met.

The international community, he concludes, must mobilize “with the same urgency as in the face of the crisis in Ukraine,” rather than turning away from the crisis.

Learn more

  • 382
    Number of children killed or injured by gunfire from armed groups since the beginning of the civil war.

    Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma

    300,000
    Number of children displaced by fighting.

    Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma

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