Youths Held by Army

Burma's powerful Army is said to have taken more unwilling young conscripts.
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Child soldier in Burma near the border with Thailand, Jan. 31, 2002.
Child soldier in Burma near the border with Thailand, Jan. 31, 2002.

BANGKOK—The Burmese military has moved a minor beyond the reach of his parents after he tried to flee forced military service, and is holding another youth in a mine-clearing school, according to Burmese sources.

Soldiers sent Maung Aung Myo Zaw, 16, to a military base in Burma’s northern Shan state after he tried to leave the Army and rejoin his family last month, Maung Aung Myo Zaw’s mother, Tin Tin Nyo, said.

Maung Aung Myo Zaw had disappeared Dec. 29 after quarrelling with his parents.

Family members finally located Maung Aung Myo Zaw in April at the Yamethin Army Training School.

“We got there as they were finishing the training,” his mother said.

“When we got there, our son said that he was unhappy and tried to run away. But the Army caught him as he tried to flee, and then they beat him on his face and ears and also hit him with their fists.”

“The sergeant from the Yamethin Battalion threatened me and said that if I were a man he would kill me,” she said.

“He said that it would be ‘dangerous’ for our son to remain at the Yamethin Battalion, and that this was the reason he was sent to a battalion in Mong Yawn in Shan state.”

Health issues

“Now, we have not been able to establish contact with our son at all.”

Tin Tin Nyo added that her son suffers from stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, and hernia, and that his family is concerned about his health.

Maung Aung Ko Khant, also 16 and also a high school student, went missing in August 2008, and was later found to have been forced into military service.

“When his mother died, he became disheartened and went to Mandalay,” Maung’s uncle, Win Myint, said. “He went with his friend.”

“He was taken away to serve as a porter [in the Army]. I cannot say exactly where he was taken. There was no way of finding him, as we lost all contact with him.”

Maung Aung Ko Khant finally phoned his uncle and said he had been taken to an Army field engineering school in Arn township.

“He said the living conditions were poor and that he had to blow up mines. He asked us to come and get him and take him out of the Army if possible,” he said.

Aye Myint, a lawyer and the head of the Burmese-based Guiding Star advocacy group, which works to free child soldiers, said he would report Maung Aung Ko Khant’s case to the UN International Labor Organization (ILO).

“We have supporting documents that say Maung Aung Ko Khant is a student. We also have complete supporting documents with regard to his age,” he said.

“We feel uneasy that it takes two or three months to get child soldiers released, even with our assistance. Those for whom we applied in February are being released only now.”

The United Nations has repeatedly cited Burma, whose military leaders call the country Myanmar, as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of child recruitment, with Burmese street children often lured into military service with promises of food and shelter or threats of imprisonment.

Original reporting by Nay Lin and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive Producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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