Submission for the 9th Secretary-General’s Report on Children and Armed Conflict - Incidents from January to December 2009: Submitted December 2009

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Published date:
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This submission for the UN Secretary General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict provides incident details and analysis of grave violations of children’s rights in Karen areas of eastern Burmabetween January and December 2009. The report concludes that the recruitment and use of children and the denial of humanitarian access increased in 2009, that sexual violence remains under-reported in Karen areas, and that killing and maiming, abduction and attacks on schools and hospitals remained a major concern.

This submission for the UN Secretary General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict provides incident details and analysis of grave violations of children’s rights in Karen areas of eastern Burma[1]during the reporting period of January to December 2009. The following information is organised into six sections, each corresponding to one of the grave violations covered by UN Security Council Resolution 1612. Trends are identified where possible.

Conclusions about each reporting area are briefly summarised below:

  1. Recruitment and use of children increased significantly in 2009, primarily because of attempts by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) to expand by 3,000 troops prior to transforming into a Border Guard Force under at least 
nominal State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) control.
  2. Sexual violence remains under-reported in Karen areas. However, KHRG 
documented one case of rape of a child during 2009.
  3. Killing/maiming remained a persistent threat for children in Karen areas, 
particularly for villagers attempting to evade SPDC control in the upland areas of northern Toungoo, Nyaunglebin and Papun districts. In these northern Karen districts, it is likely that this threat decreased slightly during the first five months of 2009 following the abandonment about at least 30 frontline SDPC army camps. By May 2009, however, villagers reported that patrols had resumed their normal frequency. Risk from landmines has likely increased, as conflict between joint SPDC and DKBA forces and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) increased after June 2009, mostly in Pa’an District but also Dooplaya and Papun districts.
  4. Abduction remained a persistent threat for children in Karen areas, particularly in government controlled areas where villagers are routinely forced to work as unpaid labourers for the SPDC and DKBA. Compounding ongoing demands for forced labour, increased military recruitment by the DKBA means that abduction of children should be understood to have increased in 2009.
  5. Attacks on schools/hospitals remained a major concern during 2009. Most notable in 2009 is the series of attacks launched by joint SPDC and DKBA forces on KNLA 7th Brigade in Pa’an District. It is not clear whether these attacks intended to target civilians, but more than 4,000 fled the area. As a result, health services and schools had to be abandoned. These have remained abandoned, primarily because of landmines laid since June 2009. Health services designed specifically for children were destroyed by the attack, including an immunization program and a targeted feeding program for malnourished children under fiver years old.
  6. Denial of humanitarian access increased in 2009, particularly in Pa’an and Papun districts, where the SPDC and DKBA expanded their areas of operation.

KHRG would also like to note that it began working to expand cooperation with the Thailand Working Group, and is in the process of training researchers to collect cases to be submitted to the MRM taskforce. Two cases were submitted by KHRG in 2009. The first, involving a 13 year old landmine victim named Saw P---, was successfully included in the MRM process at the end of October. Details of this case can be found on pages 7 and 8. The second, involving a 14 year old boy named Pah G--- who was forcibly recruited by the DKBA, was submitted on November 17th and is currently in the process of being included in the MRM process as well. Details on this case can be found on page 4 and in Appendix 3.

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Footnotes

[1] During this reporting period, KHRG did research in Kayin State, Mon State, eastern Bago Division, a small portion of southern Kayah State and Tanintharyi Division. In this report, this is referred to in aggregate as “Karen areas.” Districts, townships, villages and rivers in these areas have both Karen and Burmese names, and we have tried to be consistent throughout this report and favour the names referenced by the local people interviewed by KHRG. While districts are identified with Burmese names, their boundaries follow designations used by the Karen National Union (KNU), but not the SPDC. This practice stems from KHRG’s origins in 1992, when the KNU controlled large swathes of territory in the eastern border areas. Though the KNU controls much less territory today, KNU district designations remain more commonly referenced than those outlined by the SPDC. Under SPDC designations, sections of western Nyaunglebin and Toungoo Districts fall within eastern Bago Division, while western Thaton and Dooplaya Districts form part of Mon State. Kyauk Kyi and Shwegyin townships – which the SPDC locate in Bago Division – roughly correspond to Kyauk Kyi, Shwegyin and Mone townships of Nyaunglebin Districts on KHRG's maps. All other locations are in Kayin State. A map of Karen areas in which KHRG conducted research during 2009 is included as Appendix 6. More detailed maps of individual districts can be found on our website, at http://www.khrg.org/maps/index.html