UN secretary-general urges more action on child soldiers

Jan 30, 2008 (DVB), United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged further measures to combat child military recruitment yesterday, which he said continues to take place in more than 12 countries including Burma.

In a report submitted to the UN Security Council, the secretary-general recommended that the Council consider bans on military aid and travel restrictions targeted at those who systematically exploit children in armed conflict.

Ban Ki-moon also called for violations to be referred to the International Criminal Court, citing as precedents arrest warrants issued by the ICC in Uganda and convictions for child recruitment at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The secretary-general also named Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Uganda as countries where child recruitment is taking place.

But the Burmese regime continues to deny the prevalence of child recruitment in the country.

In an article in Burmese state media today, the chair of the government's Committee for Prevention against Recruiting Minors into Army, major-general Thura Myint Aung, said there had been "only very few cases of recruiting minors".

Thura Myint Aung claimed that laws against the practice, combined with workshops on prevention and supervision by the committee to ensure compliance, had reduced incidences of child recruitment.

He also claimed that Burma has complied with its international obligations on child recruitment and worked together with the UN and other organisations to end the practice.

Thura Myint Aung went on to accuse "expatriate national traitors" and foreign media of exaggerating reports of child recruitment in order to discredit the Burmese regime.

International rights group Human Rights Watch said in a report last year that staffing shortfalls in the military were leading to forced recruitment of children, and criticised the regime's efforts to prevent child recruitment.

"The government's senior generals tolerate the blatant recruitment of children and fail to punish perpetrators. In this environment, army recruiters traffic children at will," said HRW's Jo Becker in a statement.

HRW claimed that the government's committee had been ineffective and had done little except refute outside reports on the prevalence of child soldiers.

The group has also called on the Security Council to impose military and financial embargoes against the regime.

Reporting by Si√¢n Thomas

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