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Su Thet Htoo

2016 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 575,000 people living in modern slavery in Myanmar (Burma). It is a country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and for women and children subjected to sex trafficking, both in Myanmar and abroad. It is also increasingly a destination and transit country for foreign victims, including women and girls from India. Some Burmese men, women, and children who migrate for work abroad—particularly to Thailand and China, as well as other countries in Asia, the Middle East, and the United States—are subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking. Men are subjected to forced labor abroad in fishing, manufacturing, forestry, agriculture, and construction, while women and girls are primarily subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, or forced labor in garment manufacturing

After four and a half months of training, Su Thet Htoo was sent to work as a guard on the frontline in Karen state, where there have long been insurgents. He was finally freed after campaigning by his mother. The Burmese Army agreed to stop using child soldiers in 2012, but there are signs that this has not stopped completely, and armed ethnic groups still recruit both men and boys through intimidation, coercion, threats, and violence. In addition to formally recruiting at least two children into its ranks in 2016, the military may have continued to use children for labor or other support roles. Some ethnic armed groups abduct or recruit children—including from internally displaced persons’ camps—for use as soldiers in fighting against the Burmese army.

He said I was arrested for hiding in the dark, and had to go to the military or prison. I was frightened. He said I wouldn’t get the chance to see my mum if I go to jail for a long time. Instead, I would get holidays if I went into the army.

I was beaten if I did something wrong. Sometimes if I made a small mistake I was punched, so I started drinking alcohol. 

As told to Radio Free Asia