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Teenager recruited by Burmese army

June 4, 2009 (DVB), A teenager who went missing after being arrested last year in Burma's central Bago division has been recruited by the army, his family said.

Tin Myo Naing, a resident in Latpan Thonegwa, and his wife San San have been looking for their 16-year-old son Kyaw Myo Paing since he disappeared on 16 December last year after being arrested for selling pork without a license.

The couple received a letter said to be from Kyaw Myo Paing on Tuesday which he had dropped from a train heading south from the capital, Naypyidaw, as it passed their village.

The letter was found by a villager and brought to them.

"The letter has my son's hand writing; he said he is now in the army and being transferred to Light Infantry Battalion 118 in Thahton, Mon state," said Tin Myo Naing.

"He now has a new name, Kyaw Ko, and his serial number is 406290. He told me not to come find him [in Thahton] as the area is a harsh place to travel."

"I don't care how difficult it is to travel there. I'm still going there to find my son – I've been looking for over five months. I will find him and ask him what he wants to do."

Yesterday the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on a ceremony held in Rangoon, attended by UNICEF and Save the Children, in which the army returned eight child soldiers to their parents.

Use of child soldiers contravenes even Burmese domestic law, although Human Rights Watch in 2002 named Burma as the world's leading recruiter of child soldiers.

"If they're releasing eight children, then great for those eight children, but that's not all of them and a lot more needs to be done before the problem goes away," said David Mathieson, Burma analyst at Human Rights Watch.

The issue has been cited by former senior legal adviser to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Morten Bergsmo, as a reason for bringing Burma's ruling general, Than Shwe, to trial at the ICC.

Similarly, a report released last month by the Harvard Law School said that the situation for Burma's child soldiers warranted significant attention from the UN Security Council.

The problem however is not confined to the government, with several of the armed opposition groups, including the Karen National Union, believed to also recruit child soldiers.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet and Francis Wade


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