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Pa-Oh army pledges to protect children

File photo of a child soldier in Burma. The US State Department has decided to downgrade Burma in its annual report on human trafficking, in part because of the military's continuing practice of recruiting underage soldiers. (Photo: DVB)

The Pa-Oh National Liberation Organization (PNLO) and its armed wing, the Pa-Oh National Liberation Army (PNLA), pledged to protect children from the effects of armed conflict by signing a “Deed of Commitment” (DOC) in Geneva on 17 November, according to a statement issued by NGO Geneva Call.

The PNLA/PNLO signed the DOC at a conference called the “Third Meeting of Signatories to the Deeds of Commitment”, where 35 armed non-State actors (ANSAs) from 14 countries gathered in Geneva from 17-20 November.

In its statement following the conference, Geneva Call quoted PNLO Chairman Khun Myint Tun as saying, “To protect our children is to protect the future of the Pa-Oh people.”

DOCs are similar to international treaties which bind countries to international humanitarian norms, except that they are designed for ANSAs, which generally cannot sign international treaties. Geneva Call’s website on Burma indicates that the PNLA is now the fifth armed ethnic group in Burma to sign the DOC on protecting children from the effects of armed conflict.

The other four groups that have signed the document are: the Chin National Front/Army (CNF/CNA); the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA); the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA); and the New Mon State Party/Mon National Liberation Army (NMSP/ MNLA), according to the Geneva Call website.

The international NGO says it was initially established in 2000 to engage with ANSAs worldwide on landmine issues and encourage them to sign a landmine DOC called the “Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.”

So far, 48 ANSAs from various countries have signed Geneva Call’s landmine DOC, including six armed ethnic groups in Burma. However, only two ANSAs in Burma are still active signatories of the landmine DOC— CNF/CAN and the PSLF.

Among all of Burma’s non-state actors, CNF/CAN is unique because it is the only group that has signed all three of Geneva Call’s DOCs: the landmine DOC; the child protection DOC; and the DOC prohibiting sexual violence and gender discrimination.

In August 2012, DVB reported that both the KNPP/KA and the NMSP/MNLA signed the children protection DOC not long after Burma’s government decided to sign a Joint Action Plan with the UN to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the Burmese military on 27 June 2012.

DVB reported that the recruitment and use of children by both sides of the armed conflict between ethnic groups and the Burmese army has been a recurrent feature in Burma’s post-independence history.

 

 

 

 

This article was edited on 27 November 2014 to correct the following: a previous version of this article published on the same day indicated that the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF)—the political wing of the armed ethnic group known as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—is among one of the non-state actors in Burma that is no longer an active signatory of Geneva Call’s landmine “Deed of Commitment” (DOC), also known as the “Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.” However, there is no evidence to support this assertion. Rather, the PSLF is still an active signatory of the landmine DOC. The mistaken assertion made in the previous version of this article came from an erroneous source and DVB was unable to corroborate the information prior to publication.