Former child soldier re-arrested for desertion

Aug 15, 2008 (DVB), A former child soldier who escaped from a hard labour camp after being jailed for desertion has been re-arrested while trying to compile a case to submit to the International Labour Organisation, his uncle said.

Maung Htut San Oo's uncle Ye Tun Zaw claimed his nephew was recruited into Burma's armed forces at the age of 11 and tried to escape on several occasions.

"Maung Htut San Oo was born on 10 October 1987 and lived with his mother Daw Ni Ni Lwin in Hlaing township’s ward 1, his father having passed away when he was very young," Ye Tun Zaw said.

"In early May 1999, when he was 11, he went swimming at Insein swimming pool and was abducted by a soldier on his way back home , he was later taken to a soldier recruitment center where he was enlisted as a soldier," he went on.

"The soldier first took him to Insein railway station’s police station and asked him to choose whether he wanted to go into jail or to go with him," he said.

"Htut San Oo was scared and he decided to go with the soldier who took him to Mingalardon soldier recruitment centre."

Ye Tun Zaw said that at first, Htut San Oo was given menial tasks to do, but shortly after his recruitment he was sent on a military training course.

"For a first few days they only let him work as a servant in military officials’ houses , on 24 May, they sent him on a four-month soldier training programme in Pyinmana," Ye Tun Zaw said.

"After the training, he was posted to air defence artillery battalion 13."

Htut San Oo made two attempts to escape from the military, the second of which was successful, but when he turned 16, he reenlisted at South Dagon’s soldier recruitment centre after learning that the government hunted down military deserters.

Ye Tun Zaw said officials at the South Dagon recruitment centre changed his date of birth on his registration papers to say that he was 21, the minimum legal age for enlistment being 18.

After reenlisting, Htut San Oo was sent to Hle Gu officer training camp outside Rangoon, and was then signed up for an advanced training program which lasted for two and a half months.

"He came home for a visit when he was given leave but he never went back to the army," Ye Tun Zaw said.

"About two years later, when he was 18, he was arrested for deserting the army and was sentenced to two years in prison," he said.

"He was assigned to hard labour on a private rubber plantation. The prisoners were given no holiday or benefits and were beaten when they couldn't work."

Ye Tun Zaw said Htut San Oo managed to escape from the work camp when Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in early May, and began to assemble documents to report his case to the ILO.

He was arrested at his local ward Peace and Development Council office where he went to get a copy of his householder list.

He is now being detained in Insein prison’s ward 4, cell 8, where he is being kept in shackles.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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