The Burma Army have recruited and used children as soldiers consistently for more than 20 years, the recruitment is ongoing, as listed by the United Nations Secretary-General in consecutive reports to the United Nations Security Council, but still they do nothing to bring the Generals to justice.
Burma has the highest number of child soldiers of any country in the world. The 2008 Global Child Soldier report estimated that thousands of children were recruited by the Burma Army. In 2002 Human Rights Watch estimated the number to be as high as 70,000.
Police officers and army officials are constantly threatening to send children to jail, unless they join the armed forces.
Burmese law requires new recruits to be at least 18 years old, but recruitment officers rarely ask new recruits to produce age documentation. In some instances, when boys volunteer documentation to show that they are under age, the document is destroyed or thrown away*.
Soldiers, civilian brokers and police receive money or food from recruiters for each new recruit. In 2005, recruiters reportedly ‘bought’ recruits for 25,000 to 50,000 kyat, which was equivalent to about one-and-a-half to over three times the monthly salary of an army private.
As a result of the high demand for new recruits, children as young as nine constantly face the threat of forced recruitment by security forces and civilians in bus or train stations and markets.
Recruitment is often committed in the most brutal manner involving extended periods in detention cells, beating and other maltreatment.
If the recruits fail to carry out the physical work required in training or other assignments, they face severe punishments, including corporal punishments.
Punishments for the recruitment of children include official reprimands and monetary fines. These penalties seem particularly insufficient, given that some cases involve brutal forced recruitment and recruitment of young children.
Child recruits are usually held in detention conditions before passing through an 18-week basic military training. The Burma Army use child soldiers in combat and non-combat functions.
Numerous young men recount traumatic experiences of having seen civilians being injured, killed, raped and tortured and having been forced to commit the same acts themselves.
Those who are caught escaping may be arrested as deserters and sentenced to imprisonment for up to five years, or in lieu of imprisonment, they are forced to rejoin the army, even if they are still under age 18.
Others caught running away are shot, stabbed or beaten to death.
The inability to leave the army has reportedly even led some child soldiers to commit suicide*.
Those who are clever and brave enough to run away to neighbouring countries often face further danger due to ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ between armies, to hand back deserters who run across the borderline, no matter what age. Some are victims of unofficial deportations, often given straight back into the hands of the Burma Army, where they face beatings, interrogations and imprisonment, some disappear and some are killed or die due to the severity of their punishments. (Monitoring desk)