Sri Lanka former child soldiers meet UN envoy

December 7, 2009 (AFP) – A top United Nations envoy for children held talks with senior Sri Lankan officials on Monday after meeting former child soldiers, an official said. Major General Daya Ratnayake, Sri Lanka’s commissioner general of rehabilitation, said around 11,000 former rebel fighters, including children, were undergoing vocational training at state-run centres. Retired Major General Patrick Cammaert, the UN special envoy on children and armed conflict, met nearly 300 children who were forcibly recruited by the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said.

The Dutch UN official is due to tour Batticaloa in the island’s east and then Vavuniya, in the north, where hundreds of youngsters previously involved in the fighting are undergoing vocational training.

The Tamil Tigers, who were defeated in May after waging a decades-long campaign for an independent state, were accused by international rights groups of forcibly recruiting under-aged fighters.