Myanmar, Colombia urged to allow UN to tackle child soldiers

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A senior UN official on Monday urged Myanmar and Colombia to allow the United Nations to negotiate directly with rebel groups or guerrillas to secure the demobilisation of child soldiers.

"Columbia and Myanmar do not allow us to have discussions with non-state actors on recruiting children for implementing plans of action to release children," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative of the UN Secretary General for children in armed conflict.

Coomaraswamy said such plans of actions had brought about the release of thousands of children in Sudan, Philippines, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

However, those had come about after the world body was given permission to negotiate directly with such non-state groups.

Coomaraswamy said that without consent from each government, United Nations officials could not talk to some 50 armed groups worldwide that enroll children.

Some 250,000 children are exploited in conflicts around the world, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

A UN report presented to the Security Council earlier this month drew up a list for the first time of armed groups and other organistations that enroll children.

However, authorities in Myanmar, Somalia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan also used children, according to the UN expert.

The report also listed groups accused of killing or sexually abusing children, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Lord's Resistance Army, which operates in a triangle between Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, the Afghan national police and Nepal's Maoists.

It expressed concern about the plight of children in conflicts in 22 countries.

© 2010 AFP

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