Last week, Burma became the 107th country to sign the Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups – a set of guidelines to protect children from being recruited as soldiers. As a country where the unlawful recruitment of children into the government armed forces and opposition armed groups still occurs, this was an important step.
While the government seems to be in an endorsing mood, there’s another document they should sign – the Safe Schools Declaration.
The declaration is a non-binding, political commitment to better protect students, teachers, schools, and universities during armed conflict. It commits countries to take several concrete steps, such as improving the reporting of attacks on schools; investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes involving schools; restoring access to education more quickly following attacks; and refraining from using schools for military purposes.
Civilians and civilian structures are at risk in the many conflict zones that exist predominantly in the ethnic minority areas of Burma. Schools are no exception. Children have even been injured at school by military clashes. When schools are damaged or destroyed, or used as military bases, it dims the future for local children.
The Burmese government and a number of ethnic armed groups already recognize the importance of protecting schools and education, especially in armed conflict. The 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) calls on signatories to avoid the use of schools as bases, avoid restrictions on the right to education, and avoid actions that would lead to the destruction of schools. Yet, reports of attacks on schools in Burma continue. A greater commitment by all sides is needed.
But more than endorsement is needed. The country’s development and education are intertwined. After decades of repressive military rule, Burma’s children are the best hope for an inclusive, thriving democracy. Ensuring access to education – in a safe, secure environment – is critical to that brighter future.
Philippine Police Killings in Duterte’s “War on Drugs”
The report, “‘License to Kill’: Philippine Police Killings in Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs,’” found that the Philippine National Police have repeatedly carried out extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, and then falsely claimed self-defense. They plant guns, spent ammunition, and drug packets on their victims’ bodies to implicate them in drug activities. Masked gunmen taking part in killings appeared to be working closely with the police, casting doubt on government claims that the majority of killings have been committed by vigilantes or rival drug gangs. In several instances that Human Rights Watch investigated, suspects in police custody were later found dead and classified by police as “found bodies” or “deaths under investigation.” No one has been meaningfully investigated, let alone prosecuted, for any of the “drug war” killings.