The Rights of Children: A Roundtable Discussion

The main thing is to consider the individual rights of each child. What I want to reiterate here is that the law clearly states that there are no relationships between adoption and citizenship.                 Dr Aung Tun Thet

  • By Shin Min
    (Continued from yesterday)

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Professor Dr Aung Tun Thet, Director-General of Social Welfare Department Dr San San Aye, Deputy Director-General of Attorney-General’s Office Dr Thida San, Representative of Amyotha Hluttaw of Yangon Regin Constituency 10 Naw Hla Hla Soe, Independence Adviser on Child Rights U Myo Myint Tun and U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho) participated in the talks on the goal and effects of the bill on child rights as follows:

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): This law includes rights for child labourers. Although it’s not definitely said, children under 14 cannot take a job. But over 14s can work. And it’s a requirement at present. Your comments please, Naw Hla Hla Soe.
Naw Hla Hla Soe: As the representatives are elected by the people, the people’s voice is the voice of Hluttaw. The interest of the children, who represent one third of the country’s population, was taken into account in writing the law. As people are interested in the law, they have also fiven suggestions. CSOs have issued their recommendations on this law, as they have a lot of knowledge of it. I am afraid that people who do not have much knowledge of the law may be worried about the rumors. This law was compiled with the participation of experts. We studied the weak and strong points of the 1993 law. We also accepted new ideas as well. This law will serve children’s interest best.
How employers can protect the rights of child labourers
Dr Aung Tun Thet: There are child labourers in our country. We should be careful to do the job. Prohibiting children totally from taking jobs is impractical. CSOs and UN agencies are providing jobs for children at present. If children working at tea shops or car workshops are barred from their jobs, their families may face financial problems. In rural areas children help their parents in farm work. Children labourers can lose their educational opportunities. So, there are part time classes for child labourers. As for housemaids, there are also temporary classes for them in the wards. So, child protection should meet the prevailing situation. So the participation of employers in the talks is required. How they can protect the rights of child labourers? We must take it into account for the law to become more practical. We must study the substance and not just the provisions of the law.

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): I heard Naw Hla Hla Soe discussing CSOs’ the issuance of their recommendations. Your comments please, U Myo Myint Tun.
U Myo Myint Tun: The main thing to understand is that there is no direct relationship between adoption and citizenship. Child adoption is just a family affair. It has nothing to do with politics. Granting or not granting citizenship can be determined only by the State. There are differences between birth, adoption, and citizenship. The State has the right to grant or deny citizenship as it is a political affair. There are procedures and rules in relation to citizenship. So, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of the law.
Dr Thida San: The article 10 calls for birth registration for each adoption. But we are weak in collecting data. Internationally, there are pricise data in connection with the matter. In our country, there is even no birth list in some villages. So they don’t know the increasing population rate. Birth registration has no relationship with citizenship.

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): There are inheritance and other rights for the adopted child. What are the other rights?
Dr San San Aye: The law stipulates child rights in its chapter 7. Legal adoption and registration come together. All the matters including inheritance are stipulated in the law. There will be also rules.

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): Although the law is initiated by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, it needs inclusiveness. As there are a number of stakeholders, there may be weakness in the part of coordination. What will be your suggestion, Dr Aung Tun Thet?
The law clearly states that adoption and citizenship have no relations
Dr Aung Tun Thet: The initial source has the man responsibility. But there are a number of other sources with the parallel duty. Communities, parents and relatives also have the responsibility, apart from government departments. The main thing is to consider the individual rights of each child. What I want to reiterate here is that the law clearly states that there are no relationship between adoption and citizenship. But some are overly worried. But everyone must think with an open mind.
U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): Please elaborate the parliamentary involvement in this matter?
Naw Hla Hla Soe: Our committee will be involved in drawing up the rules, and they will be passed by the parliament. After the process, comes the work of examining the law. We must find its weaknesses and advantages.

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): What is the role of CSOs in assuring rights for children at the time when efforts are being made for the validation of the law?
U Myo Myint Tun: First, we must include the rights the previous law lacked. There may be difficulties in implementing the matters which are not included in the law. For example, matters such as the prohibition of under-18 marriage is now included. Such provisions will be helpful in the practical field.

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): There were punishments for child rape in the previous law. The current law also includes legal actions against the said crime. How do you avoid legal conflicts?
Dr Thida San: The current law has 119 articles. Offenders will be taken action in accord with the current law. We don’t need to take into account the criminal procedure. The ministry concerned will write the rules. There will be notifications and procedures. As the procedure in drafting a law, the final draft of the rules must be sent to our office. As the government approval is required the draft must be submitted to the Cabinet. And when it is passed by the government, the relevant Union Minister will sign it and issue it. Then the draft is presented to the Hluttaw, which is the sole law-making body. The Ministry has the power to enact the rules as the parliament has delegated the authority to it. MPs after studying the bill make amendments or additions as and where necessary.
Dr San San Aye: The Union Minister has urged us to issue the rules within six months after the law is enacted. I would like to express thanks to the people for their suggestions. We will take into account the suggested facts in drafting the rules. Punishments and legal actions will also come out soon. The Attorney-General Office has thoroughly examined the said legal measures. The law has the article 108 in connection with legal punishments. The law will take the highest legal action against child rape. So, I invite suggestions for the rules.
Dr Aung Tun Thet: No law is perfect. But we will do our best in drafting the law. We are going to protect child rights in the interests of children, and not for the benefit of others. So inclusiveness is required as it is the law to protect all the children of the country. The value of human society depends on how it protects its children.

U Ko Ko (Sethmu Tekkatho): Thank you all for your comprehensive discussions.

(Translated by TMT)

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