BANGKOK—Burmese government soldiers shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in eastern Karen state when he resisted their effort to recruit him, according to residents.
The military, which has ruled Burma for most of five decades, is said to have offered the boy’s parents 500,000 kyat (about U.S. $500 on the black market) to cover funeral expenses. Soldiers also warned villagers against discussing the boy’s shooting, the sources said.
Tin Min Naing was out hunting for rats in rice paddies with a friend along the railroad between Nyaunglaybin and Pyontazar, when the two youths met three government troops on railroad security patrol, they said.
When the soldiers threatened the two boys if they resisted, Tin Min Naing said he would never join the army and turned away.
One of the soldiers then shot him, while the other boy fled and told Tin Min Naing’s parents, who informed the police and later recovered his body from the weeds under the railroad bridge in Pyontaza, they said.
Tin Min Naing, 15, was the son of U Htay Win, from San Phe village, Wayonegon village tract, in Nyaunglaybin township.
“Tin Min Naing was shot twice in the back...He was also stabbed and thrown into the creek. Parents should always keep their eyes on their young boys,” Aye Myint, a spokesman for the human rights group Guiding Star, said in an interview.
Officers at the Nyaunglaybin police station said the murder occurred outside their jurisdiction and referred queries to the Pyontazar police—where a duty officer said the local military had taken over the case.
Sources who asked not to be named said police had identified Private Moe Win from Light Infantry Regiment 586, 2nd Column as the soldier who shot the boy, and that he was accompanied by Private San Ko Ko and Lance Cpl. Kyaw Moe Khine.
Separately, in Irrawaddy division, 16-year-old Waiyan Soe’s parents, Ngelar and Hla Gywe, are said to have been turned away and barred from seeing their son at the Danyingon recruiting center.
Waiyan Soe’s employer, a shopowner in Tontay, sent him to the military on May 23 after accusing the youth of stealing his mobile phone, according to Thet Wai, a local leader of the now-disbanded opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
When police declined to charge the boy, the shopowner took him to Light Infantry Unit 70 and left him with a solider identified as San Nyunt, Thet Wai said.
The United Nations last week cited Burma, whose ruling junta calls the country Myanmar, for a seventh time since 2002 as among the world’s worst perpetrators of child recruitment.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special representative for children in armed conflict, listed three groups in Burma as guilty parties: the Burmese national army, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
U.N. officials have limited access to the military government’s recruitment activities.
But the U.S. State Department also recently reported that the junta’s army “continued to recruit and use child soldiers. The minimum age of enlistment in the army is 18 years, and the government’s official policy is to avoid conscripting child soldiers; however, it did not deny their existence.”
“Informal recruiting targeted vulnerable children. Some reports indicated the army recruited children as young as 11. Credible sources indicated the number of child soldiers may have risen to 12,000, although accurate statistics were difficult to obtain.”
Ethnic militias meanwhile denied the existence of child soldiers in their ranks, although their existence was widely reported, the State Department said.
Earlier reports have described street children being lured into the army with promises of food and shelter. Others are reportedly detained by police and offered the choice of joining the army or going to jail, according to United Nations officials.
Original reporting by Nay Linn and Win Naing for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated from the Burmese by Khin Maung Nyane. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.