Junta Conscripts More Child Soldiers

Burmese regime forces have conscripted 112 underage youths in the last seven months, according to child labor activists in Burma.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Aye Myint, a leading labor activist in Pegu Division, said 112 school-age youths have been recruited by the junta army between May and November.

Their families have lodged letters of complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Rangoon, he said.

Two families of conscripted youths lodged letters of complaint with the ILO on Monday. The first youth is Kyaw Min Oo, 16, from Thanatpin Township in Pegu Division and the second is Ye Noung Hein, 15, from Shwe Phy Thar Township in Rangoon Division.

Kyaw Min Oo was seized in August while he and his father slept at a train station in Pegu. He was taken to No.4 military training school at Pinlaung in Shan State.

Ye Noung Hein was taken in 2008, but he ran away from his battalion in October and has become a fugitive unable to return home. His father lodged a letter with the ILO asking the Burmese regime’s military to offer his son an amnesty.

ILO representatives were unavailable for comment when The Irrawaddy tried to contact their Rangoon office on Monday. According to human rights groups, the Burmese military are still conscripting underage youths.

The children are threatened and beaten if they refuse to agree to undergo military training. After training, many are sent to areas where the army is in conflict with ethnic groups.

A lot of underage recruitment happens in Pegu Division, where many routes intersect. School-age children are recruited at train stations, bus depots, tea shops, outside video halls and movie cinemas or even while walking home at night.

Many child recruits taken from different places are brought to Pegu, Aye Myint said.

According to the “Annual Report of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict” in March, the Burmese junta “continues to screen and release underage children found in its armed forces during the training process.”

Sixty-eight children detected in various military training schools were released to their parents or guardians by the Burmese military, the report said.

The report said the ILO, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, was instrumental in the release of 12 underage recruits, had verified the release of 23 children “mostly from involuntary military enrolment” and was waiting for government responses to a further 14 cases.

In a report released in October, the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG) welcomed progress made by the Burmese regime to release underage recruits from the armed forces but “expressed concern regarding the number of children remaining in armed groups and the reports of new recruitments by armed forces and armed groups.”

The SCWG also expressed a wish for “enhanced cooperation” from the [Burmese] government without further delay.

In a response to the SCWG published on Nov. 9, The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) called for “real progress in protecting children affected by armed conflict” in Burma.

“The vast majority of violations against children are committed by the state armed forces and associated armed groups,” the report said.

The KHRG report calls for the SCWG to monitor the situation in Burma more closely and for the government of Burma to demonstrate “measurable and real progress in ending abuses against children.”

Child recruitment in Burma is not a new problem. In 2002, the New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that as many as 70,000 conscripts in the regime’s army may have been less than 18-years-old.

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