Two child soldiers facing execution

Oct 16, 2009 (DVB), Two child soldiers in Burma have been put on death row after being accused of killing another child soldier during a fight, the sister of one of the defendants said.

The family of 16-year-old Aung Ko Htway were not told about the incident, which happened in Laogai, the capital of Burma's northeastern Shan state, for five months after the charges had been brought, said the sister.

"No one informed us about what happened to him," she said. "We decided to give his battalion a ring and they told us he was in prison for killing a child."

The victim is reportedly from a family with members in the pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).

Both parents of Aung Ko Htway, a former Rangoon resident, are deceased. He was abducted by the army and enlisted as a soldier in 2006 whilst waiting at a railway station with friends, his sister said.

Aye Myint, a lawyer from the Guiding Star grassroots legal advocacy group, said he will give assistance to the family to take the case to the International Labour Organisaiton (ILO).

"According to [Burma's] 1993 Child Law, a child should not be punishable by death or an imprisonment exceeding 10 years of detention," he said, adding that authorities "have neglected this".

Furthermore, he said, Aung Ko Htway was recruited as a child solider, which is illegal under Burmese law.

A report recently complied by Guiding Star found that at least 107 child soldiers were recruited by the army between May and August this year. Only around 35 of these were sent home while the rest remain in the army.

He said it took time for the ILO to solve each cases because they have to deal diplomatically with minister-level officials from the ruling State Peace and Development Council.

The ILO is the only external body in Burma with a mandate to deal with recruitment of child soldiers, which comes under the banner of forced labour.

In June the ILO called for a revision of a section of Burma's constitution which appeared to justify the use of forced labour for "duties assigned by the Union in accord with the law in the interest of the public".

In the past two year the organisaiton has received more than 150 complaints of child labour, although it warns that risk of government retribution against complainants means that many cases are not reported.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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