A Dangerous Refuge: Ongoing child recruitment by the Kachin Independence Army

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is among seven non-state armed groups in Myanmar listed in the 2015 Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict as a party which recruits and uses children. The UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children has documented persistent recruitment and use of children by the KIA since 2007.

Child Soldiers International conducted research in Kachin state in June 2014 and found evidence of ongoing child recruitment. While much of the recruitment is formally voluntary, ongoing coercive recruitment also takes place. Soldiers and civilian administrators in charge of recruitment routinely overlook evidence that recruits are underage.

While the KIA denies the practice, confidential interviews conducted by Child Soldiers International with KIA officers reveal that since the 1960s, the KIA has recruited according to an unofficial but customary rule of a "one-recruit-per-family" quota. KIA soldiers have access to a “list” containing data on household members and their ages, maintained by Kachin Independence Organisation administrators at the township and village level as part of an ongoing data collection effort.

Research conducted by Child Soldiers International found that the most common ages of children in the KIA are between 15 and 17 years old, although there have been a few reports of children aged 13 and 14. Child Soldiers International found no evidence of children being deployed to the front lines by the KIA.

Despite stating its commitment to comply with international law and stop the recruitment and use of children in hostilities, the KIA has not implemented this in practice. This report offers a set of recommendations, which, if implemented, would contribute to ending and preventing the practice of underage recruitment within the ranks of the KIA.

Download this report here in English and Burmese.