The Burmese army and government-backed militias continued to systematically recruit, use and imprison child soldiers, both directly and through recruiting agents. Several ethnic minority armed groups also continued recruiting children. The government failed to align its action plan against the recruitment and use of child soldiers with international standards, despite a verbal commitment in September 2007 to do so in the "near future". The government took no steps towards developing a formal disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme that would ensure that all child soldiers are released and returned to their families.
The ILO continued to receive and address reports of child soldier recruitment by officials. By the end of the year, the ILO had received 131 complaints concerning under-age recruitment since February 2007. Fifty-nine children had been discharged from the military. The authorities continued to maintain that children only join the military voluntarily, and typically punished perpetrators of under-age recruitment with only a reprimand. The authorities also released from prison and discharged three of four known child soldiers who had been sentenced and imprisoned for desertion.
In January and February, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser visited Myanmar and briefed the UN Security Council the following month. In February, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar visited the country, and presented a report in March to the UN Human Rights Council. Also in February, the Thai Foreign Minister conducted informal talks with the Karen National Union (KNU) with the permission of the Myanmar government. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees visited Myanmar in March. In both April and June, meetings of the Bali process, aimed at deterring human trafficking and smuggling and preventing illegal migration in Asia and the Pacific, were held and the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar was discussed.
Following the arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in May, the UN Security Council issued a press statement expressing concern and calling for the release of all political prisoners. ASEAN, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar also issued statements on her arrest. The EU tightened its economic sanctions against Myanmar.
In June, the UN Secretary-General visited Myanmar. The UN Representative for Children and Armed Conflict visited Myanmar in July. In August, the UN discussed with the government the development of a joint action plan to address children in armed conflict under Security Council Resolutions 1612 and 1882. In October, the UN Security Council Working Group issued its conclusions on Children and Armed Conflict in Myanmar in accordance with the resolutions. In December, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
After extending its list of individuals and business networks subjected to targeted financial sanctions in January, and announcing in February that it would conduct a review of its policy on Myanmar, in September the USA concluded that it would maintain its economic sanctions but begin dialogue with the Myanmar government. In August, a US Senator visited Myanmar. In November the US government sent a high-level mission.
In October, a court in Laogai, Shan State, sentenced at least one child soldier to death for killing a person who may also have been a child soldier.
Amnesty International reports
Open letter to the governments of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand on the plight of the Rohingyas (29 January 2009)
Myanmar: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's new sentence "shameful" (11 August 2009)