Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Burma army frees boy after mother pleads through media


The army in Burma has released a 14-year-old boy it had forcibly recruited, after his mother appealed for his return on international media.

Sandar Win, who has terminal cancer, told the BBC's Burmese Service and Radio Free Asia (RFA) her pleas for his return had previously been ignored.

But following her emotional media interviews two weeks ago, the army brought her son back to her house.

Correspondents say forced recruitment of children is common in Burma.

Ms Win told the BBC the boy had been lured away from her while she was working on her market stall by a soldier who offered him alcohol.

She found he was being held at an army base along with other child recruits but said that when she went to plead for his release, she was turned away and hit by the soldiers.

In interviews with the BBC and RFA, Ms Win said that when she was allowed to see her son, he had been in tears and asked to go home but she was not allowed to take him.

Two weeks after the interviews, the military authorities came to her house to bring the boy home.

"I asked the authorities to return my son when I spoke to RFA and BBC," said Ms Win.

"I am very happy to have my son back and I don't know how to thank RFA and BBC for your help."

Tin Htar Swe, head of the BBC's Burmese Service, says children are regularly kidnapped by the army or given alcohol to make them enlist.

She said the boy's release was probably an attempt by the army to limit the damage from the case, which had attracted a lot of public attention and threatened to damage the army's reputation.

The Coalition to Stop Child Soldiers says Burma has thousands of children in its armed forces, some as young as 11 years old.

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