HRW: Junta needs to do more on child soldiers

by Mungpi
Tuesday, 08 December 2009 21:41

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that the training course conducted by the Burmese military junta to prevent recruitment of children into the military is “one good step in the big problem” but insufficient to tackle the issue.

HRW’s comment came as Burma’s military rulers on Tuesday said it has started the third training course for officers on preventing the use of child soldiers.

The junta’s mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, on Tuesday reported that the training course on prevention of recruiting child soldiers was attended by 33 officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The newspaper said the training, which started on Monday, was jointly conducted by the junta’s Work Committee for the Prevention of Recruiting of Minors in Military Services, headed by Maj-Gen Ngwe Thein, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

David Mathieson, HRW’s Burma researcher, said “this is a good first step but is one step in a very big problem.” Mathieson said while the figures of child soldiers in Burma might seem alarming, the patterns in which children are continuing to be recruited into military services are far more alarming.

The Burmese junta should reinforce the right laws in the military system and take stern action against corrupt officers. It should issue and order to strictly keep away children from all forms of military services, not just by avoiding to send children to the front line, Mathieson said.

An estimated 70,000 children are reportedly serving in the Burmese Army as well as in armed rebel groups.

According to the HRW, children as young as 11 are often abducted from the streets in the cities or even from bus and train stations, to be forcibly recruited as child soldiers.

“The problem is widespread, and if the junta is really serious… a training course is a positive first step as the regime recognizes that this is an issue, but recognizing and taking a few steps is not enough, there is far more to be done,” Mathieson added.

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