Burma Military’s New Rangoon Billboard Attracts Attention
Irrawaddy News, 30 Aug 2013
The Burmese military, notorious over the past five decades for its use of child soldiers, erected an eye-catching billboard in downtown Rangoon this week indicating a desire to clean up its image—and perhaps its practices.
In a first for Burma’s armed forces, a billboard promoting a “No Child Soldiers” campaign has drawn attention in the country’s biggest city, as the quasi-civilian government increasingly cooperates with UN agencies to solve the problem of underage recruitment, although new cases of child soldiers continue to be reported.
The International Labor Organization (ILO), which has long campaigned for an end to child soldiers, said the new billboard campaign was a step in the right direction by the Burmese military, known as the Tatmadaw.
“The recent ‘No Child Soldiers’ billboard and poster campaign is extremely positive and acts to further reconfirm the commitment of the government and the Tatmadaw to addressing the problem of child soldiers,” Steve Marshall, the ILO’s liaison officer in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.
“The campaign will work in several ways, but in particular it demonstrates to the people of Myanmar [Burma], at all levels, that the Tatmadaw as a professional force wants the right type of recruits with which to provide its important defense services. In so doing, it will also play a useful additional role in educating the community that Myanmar Law is clear that the recruitment of children under the age of 18 years is illegal.”
Marshall said the goal was to discharge child soldiers and to stop the practice of underage recruiting. He urged families who had lost children to the military to contact a local military branch representative to initiate their discharge. “If this is for some reason not possible, they should have no hesitation in contacting the ILO liaison office,” he told The Irrawaddy.