IRIN News: Calls to penalize Thailand’s child soldier recruitment

BANGKOK, 4 March 2011 (IRIN) – NGOs are calling for harsher penalties and better enforcement of laws criminalizing child soldier recruitment in southern Thailand’s ongoing conflict between the government and Muslim separatists.

A recent study by the Bangkok-based NGO, Working Group for Justice and Peace, and the London-based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers found evidence that boys under the age of 18 were associated with village defence militias, known as Chor Or Bor, in more than 65 percent of 19 surveyed villages in the south.

“Children are growing up in a highly militarized environment where the presence and availability of arms encourages them to interact and become involved with the military,” said the coalition’s director, Victoria Adam.

The study noted that more than 100 children ranging from 14 to 18 years old were imprisoned from 2004-2009 for suspected involvement with armed insurgencies. “There needs to be a strategy to support recovery and reintegration of child soldiers, as well as monitoring systems to prevent further child involvement in the conflict,”said Adam.