Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 16:40 UK

Burma 'still uses child soldiers'

Burmese child - photo February 2008
Burmese children are forcibly recruited on the street, reports say.

Burma has been named as the most persistent user of child soldiers, with thousands in its armed forces - some as young as 11, a human rights group says.

The governments of six other countries, five of them in Africa, also recruit children, says the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

The number of armed conflicts involving children has gone down from 27 to 17.

But the group says a consensus that minors should not be soldiers has failed to protect tens of thousands.

Children have also been recruited to auxiliary forces and non-government armed groups, and are used as spies and suicide attackers.

'Efforts falling short'

The 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report, which documents military recruitment policy, legislation and practice in more than 190 countries worldwide, cites "positive developments" since the last report four years ago.

Child soldiers in DR Congo
Involved in 17 armed conflicts
Used by government forces in Burma, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, DR Congo and Chad
Voluntary recruitment of under-18s in 63 countries
In non-state armed groups in at least 24 countries or regions
Source: 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report

Tens of thousands of children have been released from armies and armed groups involved in long-running conflicts, in sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

But children remain in the ranks of non-state armed groups in 24 countries or regions, and deployed by governments in another nine armed conflict situations.

"The international community's commitment to ending the global scourge of child soldiering cannot be doubted, but existing efforts are falling short," said Victoria Forbes Adam, director of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

"Laws, policies and practices must now be translated into real change to keep children out of armed conflict once and for all."

Previous reports have documented cases in Burma of forced recruitment of boys on the streets and in other public places. Recruits were reported to be frequently threatened with jail if they refused or later deserted.

The 2008 report says that although Burma has taken some steps to end recruitment of children, a formal demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme has not been put in place and some recruitment is continuing.

The Burmese military is involved in conflicts with several ethnic groups in border areas. Evidence of the use of child soldiers has also been found in armed groups both allied to and opposed to the army.

Other countries, including Israel and the US, were criticised in the report for ill treatment of children allegedly associated with armed groups.

In Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, teenagers have been used in suicide attacks, the report said.

Palestinian children have also been used as human shields by the Israeli army, it adds.

Meanwhile the US and UK are among 63 countries which recruited volunteers under the age of 18, the report says. Several British minors were deployed to Iraq up to mid-2005.

Burma 'acting on child soldiers'
30 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Burma army 'recruiting children'
31 Oct 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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