“Whenever people talk about guns, soldiers, or the war, I feel afraid. I am afraid to be a soldier. Becoming a soldier would mean losing my childhood. I could not play like normal children. I would lose all my joy in order to learn about war. How could I hold a gun? How could I be happy? I don’t want anywhere to have war.” Anurak is only sixteen but we have been supporting him since he was 11. Like many other students that we support, he fled his hometown to avoid forced conscription into the military and to pursue an education for his future. When he learned his name was on the registry to be drafted he had little choice but to flee.
At the time of our interview, there was no way we could have known what was about to happen. Last month, the local military implemented a massive crackdown that included the forced conscription of students into the military, destruction of leader’s homes and detention of local leaders.
Myanmar’s ethnic military groups are known to be some of the area’s largest drug traffickers, but their forces rely heavily on child soldiers and students. In many areas, these military groups require each family to provide at least one child to serve in their ranks. If their numbers dwindle, these groups often force students to join their ranks.
Recently, UCA news reported that 41 students were detained by the military and forced to perform heavy labor for the local military. One of the students who managed to escape shared with UCA news, “It was heavy training and they beat us if we stopped.” A handful of students managed to escape by walking for days through the forest and surviving on foraged fruit. Most were not that lucky. These are the conditions many students face without our support, which is why this work is so vital. Without our assistance, children are being forced into military and beaten if they stop their training. They are risking their lives to escape.
At the end of our interview we asked Anurak what he wants to do when he is finished with school. He told us he wants to become a teacher “…because in my state, education levels are very low. Many children did not have a good opportunity like me so they cannot go to school and cannot study. A lot of villages have no school, so I want to give opportunities to other children like me.”
As we look to the new year we are so excited about opportunities for growth and to break new ground, but the most important opportunity for impacting the future of Myanmar is with students like Anurak… students we already have contact with whose futures are being threatened. We want to fulfill our commitment to protect these children from being forced into the military and we want to help them fulfill their dreams. This is where you come in. We help these children because of your gifts. Each project and each student requires resources, manpower, and support. As we step into the new year, you can join the team by responding to this urgent need.
To learn more about our projects or to give, you can click the link below or you can give at www.projectak47.com