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Mizzima: Conference on Child Soldie

Conference on Child Soldiers in Asia to be held in Kathmandu

New Delhi, May 14, 2000
Mizzima News Group

Burma is one of the largest sources of child soldiers in the world, both
in terms of the conscripted Burmese military and ethnic insurgent groups
pitted against it. In Taiwan, children as young as 15 are reported to
have drafted into the armed forces, despite a legal minimum age of 18,
says a report prepared by a group of leading NGOs working on the use of
child soldiers in Asia-Pacific countries.

A country-by-country report on the use of child soldiers in national
armies and armed groups of Asia was released here in New Delhi on Friday
by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 children under the age of 18 are
currently being used in conflicts in more than 30 countries of the
world. Of them, 1,20,000 are reported to be in Africa and 70,000 in the
Asia-Pacific region.

In Asia-Pacific region, governments recruit children of 16 and 17 into
their armed forces. Modern lightweight weapons enable children as young
as 10 to be efficient killers in combat. The involvement of children in
conflict not only has a devastating effect on their own development ? it
has lasting consequences for the stability and development of
post-conflict societies, for instance, Afghanistan or Cambodia.

While the problem has received much attention in Africa, there are large
numbers of children engaged in national armed forces and rebel groups in
most of today's armed conflicts in Asia. Tens of thousands of children
serve in Asia's state and guerrilla armies ? both weapons of war and its

These will be the focus of a landmark conference "Child Soldiers in
Asia" to be held in Kathmandu, Nepal from May 15 to 18 and it is to be
hosted by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and the
Government of Nepal, with support from UNICEF.

Nearly 150 delegates from countries across the region are expected to
take part in the Kathmandu initiative, which will bring together UN
child-rights' experts, NGO representatives, ex-child soldiers and senior
government and military officials from Asia-Pacific countries.

The conference aims to garner regional support for a global ban on the
recruitment of under-18s as soldiers ?not just by armed groups but
governments as well and promote practical action for dealing with child

"The issue of child soldiers, like that of landmines, is becoming a
major focus for international attention. In January this year,
governments achieved a breakthrough in protracted negotiations on an
optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ban
the use of child soldiers. A number of Asian governments have supported
the push for a global ban ? including Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal ?
against the opposition of powerful western states such as the US and
UK", said a press release of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child