Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Burmese Army Still Recruiting Under-age Soldiers

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese army is still recruiting under-age soldiers in contravention of a United Nations call to stop the practice, according to child labor activists in Burma.

In the latest incident, a 16-year-old youth was taken late at night by an army truck from Light Infantry Division 77, based in Pegu.

Aye Myint, a leading labor activist in Pegu Division, said the youth was taken from a local restaurant where he worked. His parents were told by an officer at the Pegu army base that the youth had been sent to a recruitment center in Rangoon’s Mingalardon Township.

Aye Myint said the youth’s family has lodged a letter of complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) office in Rangoon on June 17. The Irrawaddy tried
unsuccessfully to contact the office on Wednesday.

Kyin Toe, chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Twante Township, said another family had complained to his office that their under-age son had been recruited by the army.

Burma’s state-run media maintains that the government is screening recruits and releasing any found to be under age. It reported that 68 children were detected recently in various military training schools and were released to their parents or guardians.

The ILO says it has been instrumental, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, in the release of 12 under-age recruits. A further 14 cases are still being processed.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that 70,000 under-age soldiers are serving in the Burmese armed forces.

The UN also says in its latest report on the situation that the Burmese military junta is still recruiting child soldiers. The report on “Children and Armed Conflict” was released this month.

Human rights groups say children are recruited at train stations, bus depots, tea shops, outside video halls and movie cinemas or even while walking home at night.

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

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