INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: View From a Rangoon Street Kids Shelter

Published: Wed 29 Oct 2003 04:05 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS RANGOON 001359
SIPDIS
STATE ALSO FOR EAP/BCLTV
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL BM
SUBJECT: VIEW FROM A RANGOON STREET KIDS SHELTER
1. SUMMARY: On October 21 the director of an NGO-funded
Rangoon street kids drop-in shelter reported an absence of
GOB impressment for portering and forced enlistment of street
children compared to previous years. The shelter director
believes the U.S. sanctions have increased local unemployment
as Rangoon-area companies are unable to pay for imported raw
materials and must layoff workers. However, she claimed the
closing of garment factories has not resulted in an increase
of street kids. END SUMMARY.
REACHING OUT TO STREET ORPHANS
------------------------------
2. On October 21 visiting EAP/BCLTV Director and Poloff
toured an NGO-funded street kids drop-in shelter in Rangoon.
World Vision established the shelter in 1997, with the
mission to protect street children from abuse and educate
them on health and hygiene. The center provides a place to
stay for up to three years for about 10 girls and 40 boys who
are street orphans or whose parent(s) are living on the
streets themselves. The shelter's outreach program provides
much needed nutritional and medical care to children
suffering from malnutrition and other diseases associated
with poverty. Through word-of-mouth, the shelter attracts a
small fraction of the estimated thousands of children living
on the streets of Rangoon. Freedom to come and go during the
day is very appealing and allows some kids to find light work
in the nearby market to earn pocket money. One of the
Center's goals is to informally educate the street kids, who
have never attended state schools, by giving them an
equivalent to the GOB's minimum standard of a fourth-level
education.
NO MORE FORCED PORTERING?
-------------------------
3. The Shelter director and three teenage residents reported
that they haven't heard of any cases in the past two years in
which street kids were press ganged in Rangoon for military
portering duties. Forced military recruiting has taken a
different turn as well. The Army recruiters still corral
underage teens to get them to join the military, but now
those who don't want to join are released. Recently, two
underage teens from the shelter were taken to join the army,
but one said "no thanks" and was allowed to return to the
shelter. The other, described as a difficult youth, was not
let go.
UNEMPLOYMENT UP
---------------
4. The shelter director claimed that sanctions have
increased local area unemployment because factories could not
pay for needed import materials and were forced to layoff
workers. However, there have not been any children of
garment factory workers turning up at the shelter.
5. COMMENT: This is the first report received of a
cessation in street children being forced into military
portering. It is also the first time post has heard that
army "recruiters" are giving underage teens the option to say
"no" to a recruitment pitch.
6. (U) This message was cleared by EAP/BCLTV Director Judith
Strotz.
McMullen
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