Boy of 13 forced to join army

Sep 26, 2008 (DVB), A 13-year-old pupil at the No. 1 State High School in Sittwe, Arakan state, was taken from his home on 21 September and forced to join the army, according to a neighbour.

Maung Tun Khaing Win, who lives with his mother Daw Khin Khin Win in civil servants' ward (1), was taken from his home by a soldier at knifepoint while his mother was out hawking food.

A neighbour said the boy had managed to write a note before he left which was read by neighbours and the boy's mother.

"He wrote that someone had told him that if he didn't go with him, he would kill him," the neighbour said.

Daw Khin Khin Win found her son and other child soldiers on 24 September at a military recruitment base in Utyinthaya ward near Letweh-taloneto pagoda.

But when she tried to take him home, an army officer told her that she would have to go through official procedures before he could leave.

Daw Khin Khin Win went to seek help from her son's teacher Daw Saw Khin and headteacher U Maung Soe Thein, but when they returned to the army base they could not find Maung Tun Khaing Win.

Daw Khin Win has now gone to Myauk Oo, where Maung Tun Khaing Win's teacher had heard he had been taken, to find her son and bring him home.

Sittwe residents said that the practice of forcing underage children into the army has become increasingly common in the township.

One such incident occurred in March, when 14-year-old Maung Maung (also known as Kyaw Than Htay), the son of U Maung Aye and Daw Aye Phyu Che of Minkan ward (3), was taken to an army recruitment camp and was not released until a payment of 30,000 kyat was made.

Locals also reported a recent case in which a 15-year-old child from Kyaingphyu village was forcibly recruited into the army.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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