Burma releases 68 children from military service

Soldiers march at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Rangoon (July 2013) The UN says that Wednesday's releases were a "positive step"

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Burma has freed 68 children and young people from military service, the UN announced on Wednesday, the largest number since the UN signed an agreement with the government in June.

The group included children and young people who were recruited as minors.

They were discharged at a ceremony that was attended by senior army, defence and social welfare officials.

The latest releases mean that 176 children and young people have been discharged from the military.

All of those freed were recruited as children, but some have since become adults.

Forty-two children were freed in September last year, 24 in February and a further 42 in July.

Mine detectors

Correspondents say that while the recruitment of children in Burma - also known as Myanmar - has decreased, it has not yet stopped.

"The time has come for the mass release of all children from the armed forces," Shalini Bahuguna, deputy representative for Unicef in Burma, said in a statement.

There are no verifiable figures on how many children are currently serving in Burma's huge military, correspondents say.

But in recent years the army has faced numerous accusations of rights abuses including the forced recruitment of children and other civilians to work as porters or even human mine detectors.

UN Resident Co-ordinator for Burma, Ashok Nigam, said that Wednesday's releases were another "positive step" toward achieving the government's commitment to end the use of child soldiers.

Ending human rights abuses is a key demand of the international community, which has encouraged reforms in Burma since the end of outright military rule in 2011.

The UN has also urged ethnic rebels in Burma to end their recruitment of children.

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