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Myanmar continues using child soldiers: Rights group

Based on interviews with former child soldiers, HRW found many of them had been deployed to fight against ethnic minority groups.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2006 12:35 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Myanmar's military regime continues to recruit a large number of children into its army despite having set up a high-level committee to end the practice, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

In 2004, the Myanmar government established a high-level committee to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers, which adopted a plan of action on the issue.

"Unfortunately, the government's high-level committee to end child soldier recruitment has had no real impact on the problem," said Jo Becker, advocacy director for the Children's Rights Division of the New York-based rights group.

"Until the government takes genuine steps to implement its laws, children will continue to be snatched off the streets and forced into military service."

According to research conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2002, an estimated 20 per cent of Myanmar's soldiers were minors, some of them as young as 11.

An updated report conducted by the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) has found that child recruitment rates remained essentially unchanged from four years ago, Human Rights Watch said.

"The new report by HREIB found that recruiters for the army frequently use coercion and deception to recruit children in order to fulfil recruitment quotas issued by the government," Human Rights Watch said in a statement made available in Bangkok.

Based on interviews with about 50 former child soldiers, the institute's report found that many children had been deployed to fight against armed ethnic minority groups.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported in 2003 and 2005 to the UN Security Council that Myanmar violated international law by recruiting children in its ongoing wars against the minority groups.

Human Rights Watch, in its 2002 report, found that children were also being used as soldiers by Myanmar's ethnic groups.

Since 2000, 108 governments worldwide have ratified new international standards that prohibit all forced recruitment of children under 18 or their use in armed conflicts.

Myanmar's own national laws prohibit any recruitment of children under 18 into the armed forces although this law is apparently being ignored.

"The vast majority of the world's governments have rejected the use of children as soldiers," Becker said. "Burma (now Myanmar) should too."

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962.

First Published: Sep 15, 2006 12:22 IST