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UNICEF Estimates More Than 70,000 Child Soldiers in Asia - 2002-10-30


The United Nations Children's Fund is calling for the demobilization of 75,000 child soldiers it says are fighting in state and rebel armies across Asia.

The agency's executive director, Carol Bellamy said today (Wednesday) that children as young as seven are fighting in the region and that some have been forced to witness or commit rape and murder.

Ms. Bellamy urged countries and rebel groups in the region to acknowledge the problem and work with UNICEF and other organizations to, in her words, end this profound abuse of children's rights.

She spoke in Bangkok where her agency released a report titled "Adult Wars, Child Soldiers." The report is based on interviews with child combatants from Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Burma, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

UNICEF estimates one quarter of the world's 300,000 child combatants are in Asian armies. Earlier this month, US-based Human Rights Watch said Burma alone has as many as 70,000 child soldiers.

UNICEF is calling for the global observance of the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child that sets the minimum age for recruitment at 15. The agency also wants the ratification of an optional protocol that forbids the involvement of children under 18 in hostilities.

Information for this report is provided by Reuters and AFP.

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