Teenagers tell of forced labour in Kachin conflict – The Irrawaddy

LAIZA — The Burmese army is using underage boys for forced labour and is coercing porters to fight on the front line against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to accounts given to The Irrawaddy by four teenagers who say they served as porters for the army. Two of the four say they are under 18, and two others, age 18 and 19, say they were forced to march in front of infantry as the soldiers approached KIO/KIA positions. All four say they were coerced into joining the Tatmadaw (the name for the Burmese army) after being promised jobs by army officers, at different locations and at different times during 2011. Burma’s government forces have long been accused of forcing civilians to work as porters and for using child soldiers in its campaigns against ethnic militias in the country’s borderlands. According to January 2012 figures, since 2007 there have been 1,160 forced labour complaints registered with the International Labour Organization, which recently agreed with the Burmese government to renew its complaints process for another year.