Did the LTTE really use child soldiers

Child soldiers in Asia and the Pacific

After the death of the webmaster, Peter Strutynski, this website cannot be updated until further notice. However, it is still available as an archive with contributions from 1996 - 2015.

Tens of thousands of children affected

The involvement of children in armed conflict is widespread and extensive across Asia and the Pacific, with tens of thousands of children serving in government armies, paramilitary groups, militias or armed opposition groups, many of whom have been forcibly recruited. The worst hit countries were Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and, more recently, Cambodia

Myanmar is one of the countries with the highest number of child soldiers in the world, this applies to both the government army and the armed opposition groups. Some children, often under 15 years of age, are attracted to the prestige and power of the military. Many others, however, are forced to enter. Orphans and street children are particularly at risk. Due to economic hardship and ethnic ties, children have joined the armed groups of ethnic minorities and are fighting the Burmese army.

In Sri Lanka, many thousands of children were used as child soldiers by the armed opposition group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the past, the LTTE has set up special battalions made up of underage boys and girls, some of them not older than 10 years. In October 1999, 49 children were killed in a battle with security forces at Ampakamam, including 32 girls between the ages of 11 and 15. Despite international commitments to end the use of children as soldiers, there were reports throughout 2000 of resumption of recruitment and military drill in LTTE-controlled schools.

In Afghanistan, a whole generation of children grew up under arms - first as fighters in the resistance against the Soviet Army, and later as members of the many different warring parties. The Taliban movement, which currently controls the machinery of government and most of Afghan territory, continues to recruit young men who have been trained and indoctrinated in Islamic schools (madrasas) in neighboring Pakistan. In 2000 there were also reports of increasing recruitment campaigns by anti-Taliban forces in the north of the country.

During the past Cambodian civil war, children, including girls, were sent into combat on a large scale by both the government army and the Khmer Rouge. With the demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers, Cambodia is currently facing a major challenge.

Children have also participated in armed opposition groups in the ongoing, lower intensity conflicts in India, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia and, more recently, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. They were mobilized as part of the pro-Indonesian militia during the East Timor referendum in September 1999. While the FALINTIL independence movement once recruited children, the new East Timor government has set a minimum age of 18 for recruitment into the national army.

Australia and New Zealand are based on the low standard of their western allies and recruit at 17 (in Australia in exceptional cases at 16). China appears to be recruiting conscripts and volunteers by the age of 17, including girls. Although Japan states that it does not recruit under 19, it accepts young cadets for the self-defense forces for technical training from the age of 15.

From: summary of the "Global Report on Child Soldiers 2001"
translated by terre des hommes.

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