Rights of the Child



It is very significant that the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] recognises that the practice of democracy has to start early in childhood in order to become part of the fabric of the political and social life of the society. On the other hand, a child can practice such right only in a free society. The implementation of the Convention must therefore be integrated into an overall approach that promotes human rights in general and the rights of the child in particular.

Hoda Mohamed Badran, Chairperson, Committee on the Rights of the Child, and Secretary-General, National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, Cairo. Second East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Beijing, 4-6 August 1992


What are the “Rights of the Child” in relation to Human Rights? This takes on many meanings – education, health care, family, identity, ethnic background, cultural heritage, language – among others. SLORC directly and indirectly denies all children of Burma their inherent rights as both children and people. The only children who are exempt from unfair treatment are those belonging to the military clique, who receive privilege after privilege, at the expense of the country. Other children face exploitation, trafficking, being orphaned, institutionalisation and are even jailed.


Indeed, children are the most vulnerable segment of society, being affected by a number of factors, from childhood experiences to destruction of natural resources, because these things directly affect the future of children as adults. When children’s rights are guaranteed, so are our futures. Consider this evidence as violations against the rights of the child.


Children are forbidden receive an education in their own language. Schools run by ethnic minorities are routinely shut down by SLORC, as were universities and higher institutions of learning. Now schools are being restricted in Rangoon – one to cater to Rangoon students, one to non-Rangoon students – in an effort to keep students separated. This can also be seen in the recent push by SLORC to have regional schools, to make sure students do not collect together in one place (the 1988 uprising was started by students, who also protested the 1962 coup, etc.). Drug usage is also said to be encouraged by SLORC, making cheap opium available to youths, in thinly disguised aim to distract those who the regime sees as a clear threat in any future uprising.


Muslim girls are forced into “educational” courses on military bases. Not only is this against the wishes of the girls’ parents and insensitive to their religious beliefs, but girls experience sexual harassment and worse by soldiers.


The sex industry, meanwhile, both inside Burma and in neighbouring countries continues to grow. As men fear receiving AIDS more and more, younger and younger girls are sought to be sure of their “purity”. Many children are unsuspectingly sold into prostitution by families who need money due to the economic situation and extortion by SLORC troops. Forced labour projects also takes children, regardless of age.


Children are often the first to suffer in poor economic conditions, and malnutrition is recorded as affecting 10% of Burma’s children. In Thailand’s IDC, children are not given any food, and their mothers must share their normal portions with any children.


Children face horrific experiences as refugees and running from SLORC; children must hide when SLORC soldiers come to villages. The mental shock they undergo will last them a lifetime of pain. Also because communities are ripped apart, traumatically forced to relocate or flee, the basic right that every child has to a stable upbringing is destroyed for a lifetime. These events will continue to disrupt and affect their entire lives.




If you want to pass the matriculation exam in Burma you need only pay 10,000 Ks for a subject/major. Moreover, if you want to get a high mark or distinction you will have to pay an extra 20,000 Ks per subject. With these marks you can go to medical or engineering school. Many poverty-stricken people have complained about Burma's corrupt education system. "It is the worst thing that has happened since SLORC seized power," an inside source said. [source: In-country/BBC]


During the first week of January 1995, the local SLORC military commander issued an ultimatum to close down over 90 Mon language schools in 63 Mon villages in Kawkareik Township, Karen State, and Kyaikmaraw Township, Mon State. As a result more than 3,000 Mon children are to be deprived of education. According to one local Mon teacher, those schools were open in 1989 under the sponsorship of elders and parents of the children and by the help of Mon communities there and taught by voluntary teachers in the area. Later on those schools were provided with a teaching curriculum and stationery by the Mon National Education Committee. Local military authorities in the area suspected the voluntary Mon teachers as sympathisers to the NMSP by their one-sided judgement, harassed, arrested and at last issued an ultimatum to close down all these schools.


[see also under “Eye-witness Accounts”, interview 10, 28, 30-31, 34, 38, 44, 46, 49, 67, 92, 109, 111-112, 120, 138-141]