Military abducts 15 children in Tharawaddy

Feb 22, 2008 (DVB), Fifteen children from Tharawaddy township in Bago division were abducted by government troops about 10 days ago and forced to join the army, local residents said.

The children were in the forest collecting wood when they were taken by soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion-35.

A Tharawaddy resident said the children were threatened with imprisonment if they would not join the army.

"The children were abducted by LIB-35 about 10 days ago when they went into the forest to collect bamboo," the resident said.

"They were then taken to the barracks where the military officers apparently told them they had to choose between joining the army and being sent to prison, but the children all said they would prefer to go to prison."

The children were taken to Tharawaddy police station about three days ago, as the LIB-35 battalion commander was due to come to the barracks and officers were reportedly worried they would be reprimanded for having the children there.

But the police refused to press charges against the children or to keep them in detention, and so the military took them back to the barracks.

The Tharawaddy resident said the police were also worried about action against them if they kept the children at the station.

"Maybe they're afraid that they're going to get into trouble for having these children," he said.

"The police also used to make some money from people who went to the forest to cut wood, but since the military has been discouraging people to go there they are not getting money any more."

Other local residents said that soldiers from the military recruitment division led by lieutenant Saw Win have taken people from the forest on several recent occasions.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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