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Story Publication logo October 22, 2015

Of the Same Life: Releasing Myanmar’s Child Soldiers

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In Myanmar the use of child soldiers remains commonplace but under increasing international pressure...

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Alongside the Myanmar Army's partial release of it's child soldiers, and regardless of it's continued forced recruitment of minors, billboards can be seen around Yangon displaying various messages of military innocence. “After I turn 18 and become a man, I'll get into the military, but now I am still young. The military does not accept people under 18.” Image by Spike Johnson.

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.



Three women grouped together: an elderly woman smiling, a transwoman with her arms folded, and a woman holding her headscarf with a baby strapped to her back.


Gender Equality

Gender Equality
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Children and Youth

Children and Youth

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