October 16, 2009: Two child soldiers in Burma have been put on death row after being accused of killing another child soldier during a fight, the family of one of the defendants said.
Only Maung Aung Ko Htwe, 16, serial No Ta/351807, from the 322nd Light Infantry Regiment, based in Laogai region, Northern Shan State, was identified.
The regiment did not try the two prisoners and instead sent them to the Corrections Department where they received the death sentences.
The family of Maung were not told about the incident, which happened in Laogai, the capital of Burma’s northeastern Shan state, for five months after the charges had been brought, said the sister.
“No one informed us about what happened to him,” she said. “We decided to give his battalion a ring and they told us he was in prison for killing a child.”
The victim is reportedly from a family with members in the pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
Maung was studying in the eighth grade at the No 2 State High School of South Dagon Myothit Township when he was lured into joining the army as a child soldier.
He was abducted by the army and enlisted as a soldier in 2006 whilst waiting at a railway station with friends, his sister said.
Aye Myint, a lawyer from the Guiding Star grassroots legal advocacy group, said he will give assistance to the family to take the case to the International Labour Organisaiton (ILO).
“According to [Burma’s] 1993 Child Law, a child should not be punishable by death or an imprisonment exceeding 10 years of detention,” he said, adding that authorities “have neglected this”.
Furthermore, he said, Maung was recruited as a child solider, which is illegal under Burmese law.
A report recently complied by Guiding Star found that at least 107 child soldiers were recruited by the army between May and August this year. Only around 35 of these were sent home while the rest remain in the army.