Child soldiers, grown, unsettled

south_east_asiaThirteen years after a photograph made them an emblem of the underaged combatant, Luther and Johnny Htoo are back in the news.

In “Myanmar ‘God’s Army’ twins reunite, seek comrades,” an Associated Press story that The New York Times, among other media, reprinted, reporters Thanyarat Doksone and Grant Peck wrote of a recent reunion between the now-25-years-old twins’ late-September reunion in Thailand. (map credit) The article recounted that in 1997, when national troops entered an ethnic Karen village near the Myanmar-Thailand border, children joined in armed resistance, in what they called “God’s Army” – with the Htoos, then 9 or 10, in the lead. They fought for years, as AP photographer Apichart Weerawong captured in the iconic 1999 photo depicting a sad-eyed Johnny behind a cigar-puffing Luther.

Today, Johnny remains in a refugee camp in Thailand and dreams of immigrating to New Zealand, to be reunited with his mother and sister. To the reporters, he “looked weary and nervous,” while Luther, a divorced father who has lived in Sweden since 2009, “appeared almost chic in a traditional Karen blouse over jeans, one silver hoop earring on his left ear and two on his right.”

Luther’s comment on his past as a child soldier chills:

‘It’s not fun to fight anymore, now that I’m afraid to die.’

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