10/01/2014, 00.00
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Clashes between Karen rebels and government troops in Mon State, five dead and two wounded

The victims belong to the ethnic militias, who have resumed guerrilla warfare with the army. Hundreds of people have fled their homes because of the intensification of clashes, at least 30 schools closed. The United States upholds sanctions against Myanmar for the use of child soldiers.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Five rebels have been killed in clashes between armed groups belonging to the Karen minority, and Burmese Army troops in Mon State, in the south-east of Myanmar, along the border with Thailand. The guerrillas belong to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA). Two government soldiers were wounded in the battle, centered around the town of Kyaikmayaw. The level of tension is growing and has forced hundreds of civilians to flee villages caught up in the conflict; for safety reasons, schools have been closed.

The violence erupted on September 20 last, the worst since the signing of the bilateral ceasefire in the region between the government and Karen in 2012. At least 30 of the 70 schools located along a river used by the rebels to supply the troops have been closed so far.

Myanmar has always had difficulty in promoting a peaceful coexistence between its estimated 135 ethnic groups.  In the past the military junta cracked down on the most recalcitrant, in particular the Kachin in the north. Naypyidaw has been trying to broker a national cease-fire, so far in vain because of the constant  eruption of tension in different areas of the country.

Meanwhile, the United States President Barack Obama has decided to prolong sanctions against Myanmar, for its (repeated) use of child soldiers in the government army, the Tatmadaw. This is despite the progress made by the Burmese authorities in recent years to eradicate a practice that was widespread during the 60 years of military dictatorship.

The former Burma on a list of nine countries within the Law on the Prevention of Child Soldiers (SCAS), which includes Syria, Sudan and Yemen. At the same time, Washington recognizes and welcomes the efforts made by the Burmese authorities in trying to eradicate the practice of using child soldiers. The military has discharged at least 109 young people still in service in recent times, for a total of 472 since June 2012, however, there are still plausible estimates on the number of child soldiers still employed in the army, accused of serious human rights violations including the forced recruitment of children, used as porters or anti-mine shields.


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