About their recruitment into the Burma Army:
"All of us told the soldiers we didn't want to join the army and some said they were students, and the soldiers punched us. They asked me, 'Do you want to join the army?' I refused and they punched me. Then they asked again, 'Do you want to join the army?' I refused again and they punched me again. They did this seven times and I still refused. They punched my face, my chest, my forehead, and they cut open my eyebrow and it bled. I was bleeding from the eyebrow and the mouth. I hadn't agreed, but then they sent me to the clinic. . . . Then the second boy was punched and kicked, and he was sent to the clinic too. Then they said to the other five, 'You see your friends? You see my boot? Now would you like to join the army?' Then the others were afraid and agreed to join the army."
-Soe Naing, recruited at age twelve (all names of former soldiers have been changed)
About their detention in the Burma Army's recruit holding centers:
"When we arrived the soldiers asked us, 'Would you like to join the army or would you like to go home?' Many of us said we'd like to go home. Then they took the thirty or forty of us who'd said that, stripped us naked, put us in the lockup and gave us just a tiny bit of rice. . . . There were about sixty of us in a room the same size as this one. . . . I don't think any were over eighteen. There were ten children who were just thirteen years old. The youngest was my friend who was eleven. He often cried because he didn't get enough food, and then he was beaten by the guards. I also cried often because I didn't want to join the army. I was beaten twice a day for crying. . . . We couldn't sleep. There were also rats and ants in the room. . . . For a toilet they'd dug a hole in the ground and it had a wooden cover over it. . . . There was a terrible smell. . . . Some of my friends were crying. . . . Two or three boys got sick and died."
-Than Aung, recruited at age fourteen
About the Burma Army's military training:
"The youngest were about twelve. There were five of them. They couldn't carry a weapon because it was too heavy for them. . . . They beat them. There were often beatings, then they ordered them to carry two weapons. I dropped my weapon one time, and the trainer said 'You are a soldier. Can't you carry a weapon?' Then he whipped me on the neck with the rope of his whistle."
-Thein Oo, who was trained at age fourteen
About a trainee who was caught trying to escape:
"He was sixteen or seventeen. They ordered him to kneel down. Then three or four NCOs beat him on the head and back with sticks for about half an hour. When he fell the NCOs pulled him back up to his knees. He was unconscious. There was blood all over his face. . . . Then they put him in the leg stocks, and he regained consciousness. They left him in the leg stocks for a week. I saw him there about three times. He looked like he was getting worse. He couldn't eat rice, just a little rice soup. Then he couldn't eat anything and they sent him to hospital. He died in the hospital."
-Salaing Toe Aung, trained at age sixteen in 2001
About their time with Burma Army battalions in the field:
"When I first heard the gunshots I was very afraid. I stayed in a hole and cried. I'd never heard that noise before. I was fifteen. That first time I didn't shoot at all. The battle lasted two hours. Three of ours were killed. I saw it, and it made me afraid."
- Moe Shwe, recruited at age thirteen
"We captured about fifteen women and children. . . three babies and four others who were under eighteen. They took the babies away from their mothers. We gathered them in one place and sent a report to headquarters by radio. . . . The order that came over the radio was to kill them all. . . . Then six of the corporals loaded their guns and shot them. They fired on auto. The women had no time to shout. I saw it. I felt very bad because there were all these people in front of me, and they killed them all. Their bodies were left there. The soldiers were holding the babies and the babies were crying. Two of them were less than a year old, maybe nine or ten months. One was maybe fourteen or fifteen months old. After the mothers were killed they killed the babies. Three of the privates killed them. They swung them by their legs and smashed them against a rock. I saw it."
-Khin Maung Than, age thirteen at the time
About their recruitment into opposition armies:
"I have no house. My house has been burned, so I fight those who burned my house. My parents have no house, so they already came to the refugee camp and I come to visit them there." -Karenni soldier Thu Reh, age sixteen "When I first arrived I saw some soldiers and asked if I could be a soldier. They said I could and took me to the office. There were officers there. They asked me, 'Do you dare to be a soldier?' I said yes. They asked my age and I said sixteen. . . . I've been to the front line many many times now, I can't count them all. I've been in fighting three times. Once there were nine of us and six DKBA, and we killed all six of them."
-Saw Ko Doh, who joined the Karen National Liberation Army at age sixteen
"As soon as I joined them they gave me a uniform, but not a weapon. I just followed them, and my duties were to carry water, find firewood, and cook. . . . Since joining we haven't had training or been given our own weapons, but we've been allowed to handle them sometimes. I know how to shoot it and maintain it. I can use it if I have to. During that time there was fighting two or three times, but I didn't have to fight. I just hid. While we were in a village fighting broke out and I tried to hide with the soldiers. The first time there was shooting I was afraid, but after some time I got used to it and wasn't afraid."
-Mu Reh, who joined the Karenni Army at age fifteen
"Some Lahu people who worked for the Wa army came early in the morning. They said, 'We are calling you to study, not to be a soldier'. . . . I didn't want to go but I had no choice. They took two boys, me and another boy aged twelve. . . . When we arrived they ordered us to attend military training. I told the adults, 'I don't want to join the army. I came to study.' They said, 'Never mind. Joining the army and going to school are the same.'"
-Aung Kyaw, recruited by the United Wa State Army at age twelve