Myanmar army frees 46 child soldiers: State media

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's powerful military released 46 child soldiers from service, state media reported on Sunday (Mar 13), the latest move towards ending a scourge that has long beset the nation.

The military are committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in its "Tatmadaw" army following a June 2012 pact with the UN.

But progress has been slow.

The 46 children were handed over to their families at a ceremony in Yangon on Saturday, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

"The military has released 744 underage recruits in 12 batches including yesterday's release," the report said.

"The Tatmadaw is committed to rid its ranks of underage soldiers," the paper quoted Major General Tauk Tun as saying during the ceremony.

There are no verifiable figures on how many children currently serve in Myanmar's huge military, which has faced a raft of accusations over rights abuses, including the forced recruitment of children to work as porters or even human mine detectors.

As well as the army, the UN says at least seven rebel groups in Myanmar are known to recruit child soldiers.

Myanmar is currently transitioning from decades of brutal junta rule to a civilian-led quasi democracy.

In November Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy swept landmark polls and will shortly form the first civilian-led government in decades.

But the military remains enormously influential.

They have a quarter of seats in parliament reserved for them and control three significant ministries - home, defence and border affairs.

Suu Kyi has said bringing peace to Myanmar's border areas, where a variety of ethnic minority rebels have long fought insurgencies against central government rule, will be a priority of her new administration.