Human rights group slams UN report on child soldiers

Apr 23, 2009 (DVB), A leading human rights watchdog has criticised a United Nations report for focusing too much attention on releases of child soldiers by the Burmese army whilst ignoring the fact that they continue to be recruited.

The report, released last month, concentrated attention on strategies used by the government to ensure the release of child soldiers from its army, and the continued recruitment of children to ethnic rebel armies.

According to Human Rights Watch, however, the report failed to highlight the continued use of child soldiers by the Burmese army.

"To be honest I think it's disingenuous of that process to not even say anything about the recruitment into the [State Peace and Development Council] army," said David Mathieson, Burma researcher at HRW.

"They talk about non-state armed groups, and they should, but it puts a far more positive spin on the military government's cooperation than we think they deserve."

In 2002, Human Rights Watch published a report that accused Burma of being the world's leading recruiter of child soldiers.

Burma has fiercely expanded its military in the past two decades and now ranks behind only North Korea in terms of army size relative to country population. The recruitment of child soldiers is often used as a means to maintain troop levels.

"In government controlled areas there's a quota for each battalion that they have to meet recruitment drives," said David Mathieson.

"To do that they've actually subcontracted it out to the lower ranks and junior officers and said that every battalion needs several new recruits a month and there's inducements , they get bags of rice or money."

The UN report, entitled 'Children and armed conflict', concentrated on ten countries that continue to use child soldiers either as government troops or in armed opposition groups.

"It's still a very serious issue inside Burma and the kind of report that just came out doesn't reflect the seriousness of the problem within the Burmese military and it's not very good of them to not investigate the biggest perpetrator by far," said David Mathieson.

"It's kind of cynical how they've switched the debate and are now being praised for cooperating with the international community."

Reporting by Francis Wade

Leave a reply