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Of the Same Life: Releasing Myanmar’s Child Soldiers

There has been steady pressure on the Myanmar Army and non-state armies to comply with human rights standards of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the International Labor 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.

Boys 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 when they manage to 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.