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Project March 3, 2015

Myanmar: When Child Soldiers Retire

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Media file: on-a-boat.jpg
Arkar Min, a former child soldier, works on the Yangon River for a fisherman who is a big fan of the Chelsea soccer club and makes his employees wear the team's jersey as a uniform. Image by Spike Johnson. Burma, 2014.

There has been steady pressure on the Myanmar Army and non-state armies to fall in line with human rights standards of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and International Labour Organization. The armies are making small acts of compromise in appeasement but the use of child soldiers is still commonplace—even though Myanmar (also known as Burma) is a member of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Children are kidnapped in their early teens, or convinced to join the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) and armies of pseudo independent states, with the lure of a small but steady income. Military men or corrupt civilian administrators faced with filling quotas will often forge the paperwork of minors, allowing them to be admitted into official recruitment centers. They're forced to fight front-line battles in Myanmar's civil wars, to act as porters for heavy equipment, and to walk remote fields acting as human mine detectors. Some are still children when they are released or escape. They return to parents who thought them dead or escape to refugee camps in neighboring China or Thailand, unable to return to families nor send word of their survival.

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