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Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
New plea to ban child soldiers
Philippines boy soldier
A 12-year-old rebel shows off his gun knowledge
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

Delegates from 30 countries attending an Asia-Pacific conference have appealed for a global ban on child soldiers.

At the end of the four-day conference in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, the delegates called upon governments and armed groups to stop using children as weapons of war.

The delegates' Kathmandu Declaration follows reports that a growing number of children are being used in armed conflicts around the world.


Karen child soldier
A Karen National Union child soldier in Burma

The declaration says poor and socially deprived children are the most likely to become soldiers, and calls for alternative livelihoods for such children.

According to a recent report, at least 300,000 children and young people under 18 are currently involved in armed conflicts around the world, many of them in Asia.

Tens of thousands are enrolled in government forces or armed opposition groups.

Worst offenders

Afghanistan, Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka are said to have the worst record in Asia.

The use of children in armed conflicts is common among many insurgent groups.

A number of countries - including some in the West - also recruit under 18s into the army.

Child rights activists say children usually start out as porters and messengers, but they often end up on the front lines.

They are used for suicide missions and forced to commit atrocities against their own families and neighbours.

The Kathmandu conference, the fourth in a series of such gatherings, was organised by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, a London-based group of international NGOs.

Similar conferences have been held in Africa, Europe and Latin America.

The Coalition is campaigning for a global ban on recruiting children under the age of 18 as soldiers. A spokesperson for the Coalition, Joe Becker, said the plight of child soldiers in Asia had not received enough attention.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Africa
Fighting against child soldiers
20 Nov 99 | World
UN: Save the children
20 Aug 99 | South Asia
UN fears for Afghan child soldiers
25 Jun 99 | Africa
The child victims of war
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