The Karen National Union (KNU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Myanmar held awareness-training to help prevent the recruitment of child soldiers on 13 and 14 September.

Nearly 30 military and civilian officials from seven KNU brigades attended the training in in Lay Kay Kaw Myothit in Myawaddy Township, Karen State, said Pado Saw Aung Win Shwe, the head of the KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department.

He said: ”The KNU has been accused of still using child soldiers, we are on a blacklist. Awareness trainings such as this one are being held so that we can get removed from the blacklist. After they have made investigations they will remove us from the blacklist.”

UNICEF, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Hpa-an and Mawlamyine Save the Children branches cooperated for the two-day awareness-training programme, which raised awareness of children’s rights and how to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers.

An official from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the military branch of the KNU, said: “We don’t take child soldiers, I only learnt that we were on the blacklist at the training. However, we have learnt more about children’s rights.”

According to an announcement released by the United Nations Information Centre in Rangoon on 12 March the Burma Army and seven ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) are still recruiting children to be soldiers.

The seven EAOs accused of still recruiting child soldiers are: the KNLA under the KNU, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), KNU/KNLA (Peace Council), the Karenni Army, the Shan State Army – South (SSA-S), and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

The KNU has denied that it recruits and uses child soldiers and says that it has rules and regulations against the recruitment of children as soldiers.