Source: Saw Htee Doh

Note: On March 19, 2003 the Democratic Voice of Burma interviewed one of two child soldiers that had recently escaped from the SPDC. It is uncertain if they are the same individuals described below. The names, ages and SPDC battalion number are all different.

The Karen estimate that more than thirty child soldiers have escaped from the SPDC this year (in the area of Karen State north of Sankhlaburi.) Most of these children made contact with the Karen National Union, which has been able to find them a safe place to stay.

The names of the two individuals described in this report are Aung Myo Oo and Nay Myo Kyaw. In an interview they stated that the SPDC continues to use child soldiers and forced labor in Karen State, specifically, that:

- This year the SPDC has increased the number of their troops along the border.
- Most of the new soldiers who have come to the border are children. Only sergeants and above are of the normal and accepted age for soldiers.
- Most of the children who have come to the front line were captured by the army and forced to become soldiers.

On 11 March 2003, KNU soldiers from 201 Battalion met two SPDC soldiers in a remote location. They were without food and had been eating wild vegetables to survive. The KNU soldiers then brought them to their camp. On 14 March 2003, I interviewed them. In the photo the smaller boy is Aung Myo Oo (15 years old) and the larger is Nay Myo Kyaw (16 years old). They are both from Rangoon.

Aung Myo Oo has been in the army for more than a year. He was captured by the army when he was waiting for a bus. He has not seen his parents since then. Nay Myo Kyaw has been in the army for only a month. First he was used as a porter by the SPDC but then he was forced to become a soldier and sent to the front line.

They were soldiers in the SPDC’s 303 Battalion. In this battalion there are 150 solders divided into two groups. In their group there are 60 solders of which about 30 are their age. Aung Myo Oo and Nay Myo Kyaw arrived at the border on 17 February 2003. Their location was far up a mountain and it is was very hard to find water. Every day they had to go down into the valley to get water, and also to work to build a new army camp. They were regularly beaten by the commander. One day when they went to get water, they ran away.

They also told me that SPDC continues to use forced labour, child solders and to torture villagers.