Jo Becker: Child Soldiers and the China Factor

Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch writes in the International Herald Tribune about China’s role in Burma’s use of child soldiers:

Burma’s military regime may have the largest number of child soldiers in the world. Thousands of children serve in Burma’s national army, swept up in massive recruitment drives to offset high rates of desertion and a lack of willing volunteers. The United Nations Secretary General has identified the regime as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of child recruitment, citing it in six separate reports to the UN Security Council since 2002.

Two years ago, the Security Council created a special working group specifically to address abuses against children in armed conflict. The group is empowered to recommend arms embargoes and other targeted sanctions against violators, like Burma, that repeatedly recruit and use child soldiers.

[…] So why is the Security Council giving Burma a free pass? In a word, China. A stalwart ally of Burma’s military regime, China tried to prevent the Security Council from discussing Burma’s record of violations against children. According to diplomats, China’s representatives (often backed by Russia and Indonesia) have consistently rejected all efforts to pressure Burma to address its use of child soldiers – including proposals for a more detailed action plan on the issue from Burma’s government, access by UN personnel to Burma’s territory to verify Burma’s claims that it has no child soldiers, or even a follow-up report on progress.

Despite all eyes being on China during the recent Olympic Games, this obstructionist behavior provides another sad illustration of China’s failure to uphold basic human rights standards, including protections for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.


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