Burma’s monks return to the streets. The junta recruits child soldiers
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Buddhist monks marched in northern Myanmar for nearly an hour this morning, chanting prayers for the first time since a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations. 73 bonzi started their march at Shwegu Pagoda in Pakokku, in the north of the country; the news was reported by local religious to the internet site Mizzima News.
The marchers set out from the Sasana Wihmula monastery at 8.30 in the morning (local time) and made their way to the Shwegu pagoda, without any incidents. With over 80 monasteries, Pakokku is an important centre for Buddhist religious formation. It was the first city where the military shot at crowds to dispel anti-junta protests on September 6th last.
Despite the shower of international criticism the generals continue to imprison opposition leaders and protesters. Yesterday the famous Burmese comedian, Zarganar, was released after having been arrested for the second time in less than a month. The authorities released him on the condition his “lower the tone” of his satire.
While Myanmar awaits the arrival of the UN special envoy for Human Rights, Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, by mid-November, today the global organisation Human Rights Watch (Hrw) reports that the Burmese regime is recruiting children as young as 10 for military service, forcibly removing them from their homes and families. In the past the junta had set up a commission to investigate and halt the problem of child soldiers and promised a solution.
The report, entitled "Sold to be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma" says: the generals are forcibly recruiting children to cover gaps left by a lack of adult recruits. It claims that children are approached in public places by military recruiters and civilian brokers who have been promised cash rewards by the military generals. The children are often beaten or threatened with arrest to force them to enlist, and their documents falsified so that they result of age. Jo Becker, children's rights advocate for HRW, said “In this environment, army recruiters traffic children at will”.
Hrw accuses the United Nation’s Security Council of failing to take measures regarding the recruitment of children in former Burma, despite having repeatedly threatened targeted sanctions.