CHILD SOLDIERS IN BURMA
Khine Khine & KM (Burma)
What is a Child’s Life? Imagine……
․ How did u all come through your childhood?
1) The rights to play
2) The rights to eat nutritious food
3) The right to sleep without worries
4) The right to have shelter
5) The right to learn/study
․ 1-4 support the child's physical growth again, 1 and 5 support the child's mental and spiritual growth
․ To come across a true childhood, such steps include;
․ Instead of having those opportunities, they were caught by military and forced to become child-soldiers.
What is a “Child Soldier”?
․ A “Child Soldier” is any person
under 18 who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force/group in any capacity, carrying or not carrying arms; including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers, and those accompanying such groups, other than purely as a family member; includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and forced marriage.
Ref: The Cape Town Principles, 1997. [Recited from ‘Despite Promises: Child Soldiers in Burma’s SPDC Armed Forces’, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), September 2006, p.10.]
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.
3. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.
Signed by Burmese Military Government on August 14, 1991.
History of Child Soldiers
․ Burma: The largest number of child soldiers (70,000) in the world "Human Rights Watch"
․ Since 1988, Burmese army has doubled in size, and with an estimated 350, 000 soldiers (one of the largest armies in Southeast Asia and 20% of the soldiers were under age of 18). "My Gun was as tall as me: Child Soldiers in Burma"
․ Some children are recruited voluntarily for Burma's armed forces, especially orphans and street children, are in danger "forced recruitment." Local authorities in Burma are required to provide the government with a certain quota of recruits, and are fined if they fail.
․ Children as young as 12 have been sent to fight against ethnic insurgent groups.
․ Picked up the boys at train and bus stations, markets and other public places for recruitment.
․ Threatened the children with jail if they refused to join the army. The children were no opportunity to contact their families and were sent to camps.
․ After they were detained, they have to join an 18-week basic military training program.
․ After training children are used for any number of jobs: cooks, porters, spies…
․ They were used as guards at checkpoints and most commonly in combat.
․ Those who try to escape face the threat of death and they were at risk of attack, malnutrition and disease.
․ The younger boys were sometimes kept at the base and acted as officers’ servants, sentries or clerks. The main thing is they participated in counter-insurgency activities such as the destruction of villages and crops.
Child Soldiers (2009 REPORT)
․ 3 June: The SPDC (State Peace And Development Council) forcibly recruited children aged 12 to 15 from 27 villages around Mongpiang Township in Shan State.
․ 2 June: A 16 year old boy was being arrested in 2008 by SPDC and the police in Pegu Division contacted his parents and informed them that he had been recruited into the SPDC Army.
․ 7 June: One of the officers of the SPDC army arrested two 14-year-old boys and took them to the Danyingone SPDC army recruitment center in Rangoon's Insein Township.
․ 9 June: The SPDC Army paid as little as US$20 for kidnapped teenagers. Children who try to escape were often shot or poisoned.
․ 18 June: Three youths from Arakan State at the border town of Myawaddy in Karen State were detained.
․ 24 June: It was reported that the SPDC Army abducted a 16-year-old youth in Pegu Division and sent to a recruitment center in Mingaladon Township, Rangoon Division.
Situation of Child Soldiers
․ Separated from their parents and family (against the right to shelter)
․ The child couldn't have the nutritious food and sufficient amount. (this against the right to eat nourishing food)
․ The child is filled with worries, as he was surrounded by strangers and hostile environment. (military officers treated very badly to those who didn't follow their orders)
․ The officers tortured child soldiers by beating with stick, letting them in the sun for more than 6 hours, not giving them food, not allowing them to drink water.
․ Besides, if the child got sick, there was no proper medical care.
․ The child must practice the military exercises instead of his playing hours or studying hours. (This against the rights to play and learn)
․ Some children managed to escape from the army.
․ But, they survive in constant fear or trauma for the rest of their lives.
․ Compare to other ordinary children, they have lack of mental and physical strength.
- Impossible to attend the school
- Low the no of literate persons in the country
- Lost the future
- Lack of knowledge
- Psychological disorders : Depression, Cruel, Short-tempered, Low self-confidence, Suicide, etc:
- Physical disorders : Undeveloped body structure
- Ill-health of the individuals
- More probability to become a disable person and possibility to die in young age
․ Social Factor
- No proper contact from loved ones including parents
- Not homogenous with the society
- Lack of a happy & peaceful life
- Being used to committing human rights abuses against civilians
- Using drugs, gambling, smoking, etc:
Efforts to Stop Using Child Soldiers
● Burmese Government
- Jan 5, 2004: ‘Committee for the Prevention of Military Recruitment of Under-age Children’
․ Plan of Action
- To prevent the forced recruitment of under-age children as soldiers
- To protect the interests of under-age children
- To ensure faithful adherence to the orders and instructions issued for the protection of under- age children
- Weak public awareness
- No proper action against forcible recruitment of child soldiers
- Lack of action on DDR programme (Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration)
● Burmese People
- Weak action
․ Reporting the missing case
․ Asking suggestion from fortune teller
․ Giving bribery
․ Making pressure through those dealing with the authority
․ Helping those whose child is missing in terms of financial
● (Local) Burmese Activists
- Public awareness in terms of human rights
- Informing people to report cases of child soldiers to ILO
- Working as the bridge between people and ILO
● (Border-based) Burmese Activists
- Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, Karen Human Rights Watch, NCGUB & etc:
․ Educating people, armed groups, children, etc: about child soldiers
․ Providing reintegration programme for former child soldiers
․ Doing research in related issue and publicizing
● International NGOs
- UN, Human Rights Watch, Watch List on Children & Armed Conflict, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, etc: - Public reports and make pressure to Burmese military government
- UNICEF - Educating child rights to people
- (Small no of) Training recruitment officers
- ILO - Mainly working on forced labours
- Negotiating with Burmese military government to release child soldiers