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Young Child Soldiers Used as Cannon Fodder in Asia

May 24, 2000 · 

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Published in The Foreign Post

BANGKOK- Young boys and girls are increasingly being used by Asian militaries and insurgent groups as cannon fodder, according to the firstever survey on the use of child soldiers in Asia.

According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, “the appalling use of tens of thousands of children as cannon-fodder across the region,” is rising dangerously.

“From Mindanao to Manipur, Aceh to Jaffna, children are recruited to serve war’s ends — as porters, ‘safe’ carriers for bombs, couriers, spies and combatants,” says the report, released this week.

The Coalition — made up of intemationally renowned non-govemmental organizations — defines child soldiers as under the age of ei-hteen and estimates more than 300,000 are currently being used in conflicts worldwide.

“Maoist rebels, jihad fighters, separatist guerillas and right-wing nationals are united in one respect exploiting children for their cause,” it said.

Not only well-known insurgent groups like Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers and Myanmar’s Karen National Union but also governments in Asia are guilty of using children younger than 18 in armed forces, it said.

In many cases. armies use children to perform extremely dangerous tasks such as intelligence work, since children are thought to be more able to elude counterintelligence agents.

“Mostofthechildrensufferphysical abuse and other privations within the armed forces. In extreme cases, child soldiers are driven to suicide … when they cannot bear the mistreatment,” the report said.

Coalition head Rory Mungoven cited Myanmar as “one of the world’s single largest users of child soldiers,” noting that ethnic insurgent groups and Myanmar’s military reuime together employ thousands of children as fighters, porters and “sexual slaves.”

Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Afghanistan also were identified as the countries worst afflicted by the widespread use of child soldiers.

Not only developing states but also developed countries in Asia use child soldiers, it said, citinAustralia’s deployment of under- 18s in the East Timor peacekeeping force last year.

In some states such as Myanmar, children are forcefully pressed into service, while in other states children are enticed out of schools into armies with promises of better standards of living, Mungoven said.

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