A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed and his body hidden under a bridge by a Burmese soldier in Bago division after refusing to join the army.
The incident on 16 May is the first time a prospective child soldier has been killed for refusing to join the army. Use of underage children in the army is illegal under Burmese law, but the military regime is believed to be one of the world’s leading recruiters.
Tin Min Naing’s death was reported by his friend, Kyaw Win Aung, who had also been forced by soldiers at gunpoint to enter the army. However he was released the following day after his evident trauma became apparent to army officials at the local Thantada military base. He said the two had run away from the soliders, who then shot Tin Min Naing twice in the back and stabbed him with a pitchfork.
The victim and the friend had been hunting for rats on the outskirts of his village, south of Bago’s Pyontaza town, on the evening of 16 May. His friend told Tin Min Naing’s parents that they had encountered soldiers at a guard post locally known as Thantada bridge.
The soldiers have been named as privates Moe Win and San Ko Ko, and second lieutenant Kyaw Moe Khaing, from the Light Infantry Battalion 586, based at Pyontaza railway station. Moe Win is accused of the murder.
Local police confirmed to DVB that the incident had happened but refused to give details, adding only that it was being investigated. It is now understood however that the army unit has taken over the investigation.
The army reportedly told the parents that the person responsible will be punished. The parents were given 500,000 kyat ($US500) for funeral expenses and warned not to file any more complaints on the matter.
Lawyer Aye Myint, who heads the Guiding Star legal advocacy group which works on child soldiers cases in Burma, said that the incident was a byproduct of army policy that soldiers fulfil recruitment quotas.
“I have had some experience with such cases but never one as gruesome as this. The worst cases that I encountered before were soldiers taking some lost children to a deserted place and beating them up to make them join the military,” he said.
“This case is too inhumane. The salary earned by soldiers is not enough to cover their needs so they desperately look for children to recruit [for food and financial rewards]. The practice is now starting to look like kidnapping or robbery.”
A UN report released last week slammed Burma’s “persistent” use of child soldiers, and named a number of armed ethnic groups as fellow guilty parties. The Burmese army has also been known to use children as minesweepers, forced to walk in front of troop patrols to shield them from the blast of landmines.
A Human Rights Watch Report in 2002 said that as many as 70,000 children under 18 could be in the Burmese army.