Myanmar is no longer a safe place for children. A confirmation to this effect came when Save the Children in its report stated that 43 children have been killed since the military seized power in February.
The killing of children has sparked global outrage. Violence has ramped up in recent weeks with Save the Children saying that children are not even safe in their own homes. At least three cases of young children – seven, 11 and 12-year-old – shot and killed by armed forces in their homes during the past 10 days have been confirmed. A six-year-old girl was shot dead which became the international headlines.
The rights body has prepared the report on the basis of data compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring organisation.
Earlier, UNICEF in its report stated that there were, “countless others seriously injured” and at the same time, almost 1,000 children and young people reported to have been arbitrarily detained by security forces across the country. “Millions of children and young people have been directly or indirectly exposed to traumatizing scenes of violence, threatening their mental health and emotional well-being."
Henrietta Fore, Director-General of the United Nations Children’s Fund stressed that she was “appalled” by the “indiscriminate killing, including of children, taking place in Myanmar and by the failure of security forces to exercise restraint and ensure children’s safety”.
Quoting Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, she noted that those responsible for these actions, “which undoubtedly constitute egregious child rights violations”, must be held accountable.”
The killing of these children by armed forces was an indication of prevailing conditions in Myanmar. Activist groups in Myanmar and outside have been trying to collect data on the missing children or victims of violence or children who have been sexually assaulted since military took over the country. A close associate of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi conceded that the activist gorups in Myanmar haven't been able to collect data on children and their conditions under the military rule. Both the military and the police have purposely suppressed the information from media glare.
Under the military rule, children have often been denied food, nutrition, health, education and safety. Activists said that under any uncertain political condition, children have always been at the receiving end. In those circumstances, not only physical health and education get ignored, their very existence is at peril. In the political chaos, violence becomes the most effective weapon to target children.
"In such situation, children are used as means of hurting the community", explained veteran activist and Joint Women's Programme, Dr Jyotsna Chatterji. Children are future of any community so they are targeted by the armed forces or military ruler to control the community. "A political upheaval leads to destruction of a human life, primarily the child who will be the future citizen. Hence, children become victims of violence.
Why would military attack children?
"Killing a child means killing the future generation,” Dr Chatterji sad “safety and protection of a child is done for the continuity of the race. If children and women are killed then men alone cannot do anything. Likewise, if men are gone then there is no way of production. So, safety and protection are the most important aspects of child rights.”
All children have a right to grow up free from violence. The fact that so many are being killed on an almost daily basis in Myanmar shows a complete disregard for human life – and international law – by the armed forces. The rights groups have been taking care of the child victims of the conflict. That's because the long-term consequences of violence on their psyche cannot be ruled out.
Currently, the delivery of critical services to children has ground to a halt. According to Henrietta Fore, almost 1 million children are without access to key vaccines; almost 5 million are missing out on vitamin A supplements; nearly 12 million risk losing another year of learning; more than 40,000 children are without treatment for severe acute malnutrition; close to 280,000 vulnerable mothers and children will lose access to cash transfers which are their lifeline and more than a quarter million children will lose access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services."
She suggested that armed forces must immediately refrain from perpetrating abuses of child rights and ensure the security and safety of children at all times. "Security forces should cease the occupation of education facilities. They must also protect all essential workers – including health workers and teachers – providing vital services for children and families", she said.
In every crisis around the world, children are the innocent victims. Their safety must be prioritized; they must be protected under all circumstances, and the only way to protect children in Myanmar is to stop the violence against people altogether.
World leaders must come together urgently to create pressure on military junta to ensure that democracy returns to Myanmar and no more lives are lost to this deplorable violence.