That the Burma army (Tatmadaw) forces children to become soldiers is despicable. For those of us who support their opponents it is troubling that the resistance groups also arm children, for the Karen, Chin and others train and allow kids as young as 13 to join the fighting. The fact that these children are volunteers is not on its own sufficient excuse to distinguish these child soldiers. Steve Gumaer, on the Partners Relief & Development Facebook Page (who now have nearly 800 members, it was only days ago we were celebrating 500) gives a helpful reflection:
As I have struggled with this and asked God how we are to respond, I have realized one thing: These people are desperate. Their villages are burned down, their fathers are forced to serve as porter slaves, and their livelihood is destroyed by one of the most abusive and brutal regimes in the world today.
The war in Burma has stripped away the support and protective mechanisms that would keep this boy off the battlefield. In desperation the leaders of his community encourage boys like Geniro to join the adults in a life or death struggle against a merciless dictatorship.
Not only are Burma’s children serving as combatants, they are being robbed of their childhood by a regime that denies them access to basic education, healthcare, and security. Further compounding their misery is a famine currently underway in Chin State where Geniro lives. This famine has claimed the lives of 44 children so far and leaves more than 50,000 vulnerable to starvation in 120 villages.