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Child Soldiers In Burma

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is one of the countries singled out by the United Nations for using child soldiers. According to a U-N report, "There are reliable reports of continued forcible recruitment and training of children for the government armed forces and non-state armed groups." The report goes on to say that, "Former child soldiers from the government forces seeking protection in Thailand as army deserters face the threat of forcible return to Myanmar under a current practice by Thai authorities."

According to the U-N, the Karen National Union and the Karenni National Progress Party, two groups that oppose Burma's military junta, also "use and recruit children into the Karen National Liberation Army and the Karenni Army." The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, a nongovernmental organization, estimates that about ninety-thousand soldiers – twenty percent of the Burmese army and ethnic insurgency forces – are under the age of eighteen. Observers say that Burma may have more child soldiers than any other country. Human Rights Watch, an independent monitoring group, has documented widespread recruitment of boys as young as eleven by Burma's national army.

Ambassador Jackie Sanders, U.S. representative to the U-N for special political affairs, says, "It is important that the United Nations, the Security Council, and our governments keep the issue of children and armed conflict in our focus, particularly in light of the alarming estimate that some three-hundred-thousand children are today involved in more than thirty conflicts worldwide."

Ambassador Sanders says that Burma's military regime acknowledges the recruitment of child soldiers and claims to have taken action against five officials involved in the practice. But, says Ambassador Sanders, evidence continues to emerge that the recruitment of child soldiers in Burma continues.

The abuses in Burma, says President George W. Bush, are widespread:

"Forced labor, trafficking in persons, and use of child soldiers, and religious discrimination are all too common."

Mr. Bush says, "The people of Burma live in the darkness of tyranny – but the light of freedom shines in their hearts."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.