Recently, Myanmar’s authorities imprisoned 21 Rohingya and they inhumanely detained children. Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, Brad Adams, explains the main reason by saying, “These 30 men, women, and children are being punished for simply seeking an escape from the daily brutality they’ve been subjected to for years.” The Myanmar crisis has been likened to apartheid by rights groups, as they lament how the government is resolving an age-old national conflict with the Rohingya people by using violence. In a typical case reported by Human Rights Watch, a five-year-old child and twenty-one adults from the group were last week jailed for two years under a law that bars using false identity cards after a one-day trial in which they were reportedly denied a lawyer. The fate of eight of the children who have been sent to a “training school” in Yangon region is still undecided including that of the five-year-old.
Since 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been registered refugees in Bangladeshi refugee camps for the same reasons. In 2017 alone, 600,000 Rohingya left Myanmar. Unfortunately for those living in villages outside the camps, there are severe restrictions on leaving their townships; on the contrary, their mostly Buddhist-Rakhine neighbors are allowed to move more freely. Ignoring campaigns from the United Nations to try all Myanmar’s top generals, the military still insists all attacks were legitimate counterinsurgency operations against an armed Rohingya group it calls “terrorists.” This is in opposition to what Rohingya who have been stripped of all their basic human rights recount. Also, two drivers have been arrested while a third is on the run, police Major Tun Shwe told the Irrawaddy news website. Saed in Sitwe camp told Al Jazeera, “If I want to go to Yangon, I have to ask for travel authorization from the immigration office.” That involves submitting various documents and proof of identification, including a letter from the administrator of the applicant’s village.
Minors and children, per the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, are not supposed to be subject to any form of imprisonment. Article 37 stipulates (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; (c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances. Myanmar ratified the CRC in 1991, and is therefore obliged to respect her international obligation to protect all children as she celebrates her 20th anniversary. The government needs to refrain from using pressure and violent methods as a peace tool. National dialogues and the restoration of the human rights of the Rohingya people should be a national emergency.
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