Myanmar military releases 91 child soldiers
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military released 91 children and young people from military service on Friday, the United Nations said as it encouraged the army to speed up demobilization to ensure it has no under-age soldiers in its ranks.
Myanmar has for years been listed among countries where children have been recruited to fight, by both the government army and ethnic minority guerrilla groups battling the government for autonomy.
"Such discharges must be accelerated so that the Tatmadaw can quickly achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment, and full discharge of those that are under 18," said Shalini Bahuguna of the UN Children's Fund, referring to the military by its traditional name in Burmese.
Myanmar's military ran the country for 49 years and was condemned internationally for human rights abuses including the use of child soldiers.
A reformist, semi-civilian government that took over in 2011 has been working with the United Nations to get children out of the armed forces, and has freed 364 children since June 2012.
Government ministries have issued directives to authorities to ensure former child soldiers have access to health care, education and other services to help them reintegrate into society, the United Nations said.
The United Nations listed seven ethnic minority guerrilla forces, which have fought or are still fighting the government, which it said also use child soldiers including the Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Liberation Army, Karenni Army, Shan State Army South, and United Wa State Army.
(Reporting by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Robert Birsel)