Junta accused of recruiting child soldiers

Oct. 31, 2007 at 7:43 AM

NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Myanmar’s military junta is forcibly recruiting children, some as young as 10, to meet its military staffing shortage, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Jo Becker, children’s rights advocated for the New York rights group, said recruiters in the country, formerly called Burma, “are literally buying and selling children to fill the ranks of the Burmese armed forces.”

An Human Rights Watch news release said the recruiters target children because they are under great pressure to meet increasing quotas brought on by continued army expansion, high desertion rates and a lack of willing volunteers.

Once the children are picked up form public places, recruitment centers routinely falsify the children’s enlistment records. Those who refuse to participate in the junta’s human rights abuses or try to escape are beaten, forcibly recruited or imprisoned, Human Rights Watch said.

Other armed groups such as ethnic insurgents also recruit and use child soldiers, though in smaller numbers, the statement said.

Human Rights Watch urged the U.N. Security Council, which will soon consider violations against children in Myanmar, to impose bans on the supply of arms and military assistance and travel and financial restrictions against the junta leaders.

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