Is there any justice for children?
The story of young Kyaw* is unacceptable but true. This boy, only 8 years old, has been locked up for several months for having cut up the papers of his school teacher.
Whilst visiting a prison in Myanmar, Fabrice Cregut, a Tdh expert on justice for children, met Kyaw. The local team told him his story and explained why such a young boy was behind bars. “It’s hardly believable. And yet I have seen other cases of children placed in detention for trivial offences. But this one is quite simply unacceptable,” Fabrice Cregut reports upon his return to Switzerland.
Kyaw attended school with his younger brother. One day he had forgotten to bring his lunch from home. He asked his teacher for permission to go to fetch it, but was not allowed to, perhaps for a perfectly good reason; that is not, however, the problem.
With a rumbling stomach and probably rather upset, the little boy snatched some of his teacher’s papers and cut them into pieces. The school administration then called in the police, and Kyaw was arrested. He was taken to court, where he was sentenced to the minimum penalty: two years in prison. Since then he has been locked up in a prison for juvenile offenders.
Terre des hommes interceded in Kyaw’s favour, but the deadline for an appeal against the court’s decision had expired. Our team dealing with the social reintegration of former young prisoners will be working with Kyaw and the prison staff to see if he can be released for good conduct after having served one year behind bars. The sentence was out of all proportion, and far too long for a child at the age of only eight years, especially in relation to the offence committed.
*Not his real name
Photo credit: © Tdh / Jean-Luc Marchina