Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Child soldiers a reality in Burma: Rights Group

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) –- The United Nations Security Council has been urged by a United States-based Human Rights group on Wednesday to protect tens of thousands of children who are brutally abducted and recruited as soldiers in Burma.

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict in its new report titled “No More Denial: Children Affected by Armed Conflict in Myanmar (Burma)” urged the United Nations Security Council to pressure Burma’s military junta as well as ethnic armed rebel groups to stop all recruitment of children into their armed forces.

The 60-page report, released on Wednesday, documents children being killed, raped, forcibly displaced, abducted and recruited as soldiers by the Burmese Army, who, the group said also attacked schools and denied access to humanitarian assistance.

The condition of children is worse in parts of the country, where the Burmese Army and ethnic insurgents are engaged in decades’ long war, the report said.

Children as young as nine are recruited as soldiers by the Burmese Army and non-state armed groups even from public places such as bus and train stations, the report said.

The group said, “The SPDC must no longer deny these children access to sufficient and life saving humanitarian assistance,” and calls on the United Nations as well as the international community to protect children from violence, maltreatment and abuses in Burma’s ongoing armed conflict.

While the group charged the Burmese military junta, officially known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), for its continuous violation of human and child rights, it also said non-state armed groups (NSAG) are no exception in recruiting children into their armies.

“Most NSAGs have reportedly recruited and used children in their armed groups, albeit on a much lower scale than the Myanmar Armed Forces,” the report said.

The group in its recommendations, called on the UN Security Council to break its silence and to call on the SPDC and other NSAGs to immediately release all children from their armies and to set a deadline for them to comply with international standards.

“If tangible progress is not achieved within the specified time frame the Security Council should impose targeted measures, in line with Resolutions 1539 and 1612,” the report urged.

The report also urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Burma is a member, to make the promotion and protection of the rights of the child a priority in its policy and to take effective measures to ensure that all members protect children from the effects of armed conflict, to end the use of children in armies and armed groups.

The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict was formed in 2001 in response to the need for improved monitoring and reporting on violations against children.

In April, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his annual report to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict said the Burmese junta’s army and nine other armed ethnic groups are still recruiting child soldiers.

Ban said, both the Burmese junta and a list of armed ethnic groups, including ceasefire groups and active anti-government forces, are continuing to recruit children into their armies.

Both the junta and armed ethnic groups have denied the allegations.

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