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Mizzima: Asean should declare "chil


Mizzima News Group
July 24, 2000

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers urged ASEAN countries to
declare itself a "child soldier free zone" with the memorandum sent to
the meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers and their dialogue partners in
Thailand this week.

"Ten of thousands of children have been recruited, sometimes forcibly
into governmental armed forces, paramilitaries and non-governmental
armed groups across the region. The worst affected countries in
Southeast Asia have been Myanmar and Cambodia, but there are clear
warning signs of escalating problems in Indonesia, the Philippines and
Laos." said the coalition in its statement issued today.

The coalition called on ASEAN to follow other regional and international
groupings- such as the OAU, the ECOWAS, the OAS, the OSCE, the EU and
G8- in endorsing the new optional protocol to the convention on the
Rights of the Child that prohibits the use of children . And urged
governments and armed groups throughout the ASEAN region to immediately
demobilise any children under 18 currently in training or serving in
their ranks, and to work with community groups to prevent this kind of

The coalition argued that ASEAN has already declared itself a nuclear
free zone and the time has come to ban the use of children as weapons of
war as well.

"This is the worldwide problem and there are about 300,000 child
soldiers being used in about 30 countries in the world. In ASEAN,
actually record is pretty good. Most of the  governments are not
recruiting children now. Some armed groups in Indonesia , Phillipines
and Thai-Burma border are using children . Only Burma and Singapore are
dragging their feet on the issue. We would like to build on the support
within ASEAN to really make progress on the issue." Said Mr. Rory
Mungoven, London-based coordinator of the international NGO network.

"Burma is one of the single largest user of child soldier any where in
the world. Both within the government armed forces where children are
recruited  sometimes forcibly below 15 and often down to 10 or 12, and
certainly in ethnic groups fighting against the Burmese government as
well. In almost every one of them has the record of using children in
this way. We want ASEAN as a block to really uphold this principle of
non-recruitment of children and child soldier and use its influence on
Burma to change law and practices." said Mr. Mungoven.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldier was formed in May 1998 by
leading non-governmental organisations to seek to end the military
recruitment and participation in armed conflict of all children under 18
years of age. Its steering committee members currently include Amnesty
International, Defence for Children International, Human Rights Watch,
Jesuit Refugee Service, Quaker United Nations Office-Geneva, Radda
Barnen for the International Save the Children Alliance, Terre des
Hommes and World Vision International and several NGOs from Latin
America, Africa and Asia.