With the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2002, after nineteen months of house arrest, hope arose that Burma's military junta might take steps to improve its human rights record, said the Human Rights Watch in its annual report issued January 14.
However, the report said by late 2002, talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government ground to a halt and systematic restrictions on basic civil and political liberties continued unabated. The report in particular drew attention to grave abuses, including forced labor and the rape of Shan minority women by military forces.
Government military forces continued to forcibly recruit and use child soldiers, said the report. "We are concerned about huge numbers of internally displaced as well as the information especially in ethnic minority regions that indicates forced labor continued to be used," said Mike Jendrejcyk, Human Rights Watch's Director of Asian Affairs.
"There is no credible evidence of recruitment of child soldiers," Burma's UN ambassador, told the Security Council. "We received a large number of very credible testimonies from children who have been recruited into Burma national forces," countered Jo Becker, Child Soldiers co-ordinator of Human Rights Watch.
U Bo Hla Tint, an official of Washington based National Coalition Government of The Union of Burma said the report reflects the true human rights conditions in Burma.