Underage recruits remain in military posts and deserters are being chased down and recaptured by their units a month after the government signed an agreement with the UN to prevent the use of child soldiers in the Burmese Army.
Maung Maung Lay, a human rights activist, told DVB that the Burmese Army recruited private Myo Min, serial number P-454362, when he was 16 in 2011. The teenager later deserted his unit and now is back home with his family.
“Myo Min was recruited as a child soldier when he was 16 years 5 months and around 13 days old. He was tricked to join the army by lance corporal San Oo who told him he would get paid a lot of money without having to do anything in the army unit,” said Maung Maung Lay.
According to the activist, another child soldier, 16 year-old private Yay Chan – serial number P-414636, who tried to desert Light Infantry Battalion 312 based in northern Shan state’s Kunlon township on several occasions, was recaptured four times.
The child soldier’s current whereabouts are unknown.
On June 27, the Burmese government and the UN signed an agreement in Naypyidaw to prevent child soldiers from being recruiting and serving in the military and to release its existing underage members.
“The government and international organisations have been signing agreements to end the use of child soldiers and we welcome that,” said Maung Maung Lay. “But we see there is still very weak protection for the children who are being recruited as soldiers.”
While the government has recently signed a raft of agreements with international bodies in an attempt to shed their image as a pariah nation, forced labour and the use of child soldiers in the Burma’s expanding army continue to plague the country’s ‘reform’ process.