Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fears for 10 thousand child soldiers in Nepal

Fears for 10 thousand child soldiers in Nepal

Updated Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:54am AEST
Rights groups say more than 10-thousand Maoist child soldiers in Nepal need help integrating back into their communtiies .. after failing to be registered at UN monitored camps.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Suman Khadka, Save the Children Nepal, Robert Koenig, producer of a soon-to-be-released documentary called 'Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army'

COCHRANE: Nepal's 10 year civil war attracted thousands of young boys and girls away from their villagers and into the jungles to fight, cook and spy for the rebel Maoists. Many children were performers in cultural groups which spread propaganda in remote villages. With the official end of the war in late 2006 came promises to immediately discharge all child soldiers, but two years on, little has been done. The Maoists, who now head the after elections this year, registered 30-thousand fighters and the UN decided that around 3-thousand of those were under age of 18. But Suman Khadka, a child rights advocate for Save the Children in Nepal, says the 3-thousand who currently live in UN-monitored camps, or cantonments, are just the tip of the iceburg.

KHADKA: There was so many children outside the cantonments, informally, who never even came to the cantonments... and now we actually realise the ones who are in the community are much more vulnerable and they actually need equally support if not more.

COCHRANE: Experts say its impossible to put an exact number on how many child soldiers there are in Nepal, but Ms Khadka estimates that less than a third of young fighters are in Maoist camps.

KHADKA: I think we are saying 15,000 children including those children in the cantonments, but that means at least 10 to 12,000 are actually outside in the community.

COCHRANE: Ian Martin is the chief of the UN Mission in Nepal, which has assisted with the peace process. He and others in the UN have pushed for the immediate discharge of child soldiers, as called for in the peace deal. But Mr Martin says reintegration has been delayed by concerns from the former rebels that child soldiers they trained could be re-recruited by other smaller armed groups who continue to fight for various causes.

MARTIN: That's a concern, in fact, which the Maoist leadership expresses to us as to why they dont want those who are still in the cantonments to be discharged, unless and until arrangements have been made to reintegrate them effectively. They specifically express concern that they might join other armed groups and there are people who, even if they came very late into the cantonments, have had some degree of physical and even military training there.

COCHRANE: UNICEF and other childrens organisations have started working with child soldiers, both inside and outside the camps to faciltate their return home. But that's not always an easy process. Robert Koenig is the producer of a soon-to-be-released documentary called 'Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army'.

KOENIG: The child soldier in Nepal is not what you think of as child soldiers in say Africa or in other places around the world where there is this forced recruitment, where in Nepal there seems to be more of an indoctrination program and the indoctrination starts very early, they have these indoctrination programs that go around to the schools... and for the most part, most of the Maoist kids that we met were really into the idea of being a Maoist.

COCHRANE: Many young fighters joined the Maoist army to escape Nepal's entrenched caste system, gender discrimination and poverty. Those who try to return to their villages, often find those issue are largely unchanged. The documentary makers found many young boys who left the Maoists ended up migrating to India or the Middle East to work, while girls, considered impure under the strict Hindu culture for leaving the village, are often forced to get married.

For some young Maoist fighters, their actions during the war mean they aren't welcome back home, as Robert Koenig explains.

KOENIG: You have, you know, 15 year olds who were running villages at gun point, and some of them were extorting money from people, there were kidnappings, there was vigilante justice involved, so there are a lot of issue with these kids going back home again.

COCHRANE: Suman Khadka, from Save the Children, says it could take two years or more to reintegrate Nepal's child soldiers and says the issue deserves more attention, both in Nepal and the world.

KKHADKA: Maybe in the middle they thought you know, if we focus too much on this it's going to disrupt the peace process... The other political parties don't really give so much attention to it, neither do the general overall civil society of Nepal, nor even the international community... so relatively I feel not enough has been done.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Photos from the Hollywood Premiere of "Returned"at the Artivist Film Festival and Director Robert Koenig at The Artivist Awards

Robert Koenig outside The Egyptian Theatre where "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" made its Hollywood premiere on Oct 4, 2008.

Director Robert Koenig at The Artivist Awards

Director Robert Koenig talking to Reporter on the red carpet

Robert Koenig talking to Reporter about "Returned:Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army"

Director Robert Koenig accepting the award of Best Short, Children's Advocacy for "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" at the 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival

Robert Koenig after the awards ceremony and reception with the Artivist Award for Best Short, Children's Advocacy for his film "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" Wins Artivist Award for Children's Advocacy at the 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival

For Immediate Release
Hollywood CA (October 1, 2008)

"Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" makes its Hollywood premiere on October 4, 2008 at 3:30 pm at The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028.

Additionally “Returned” has been selected to receive the award of "Best Short, Children's Advocacy" at The Artivist Awards ceremony, which will be take place at 7:00pm on Sunday, October 5, at The Egyptian Theatre. There will be a red carpet event prior to the ceremony and a catered reception afterwards.

The film “Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" examines the reintegration of child soldiers after the recent the civil war in Nepal.

When asked about the driving force behind picking the topic of child soldiers in Nepal, the film's director Robert Koenig said, “Like most people, I generally am concerned about the suffering of children. However, I was not fully aware of the plight of former child soldiers in Nepal until a researcher friend, Brandon Kohrt, who later became the co-writer of "Returned," told me about his work with former Nepali child soldiers and the communities to which they are returning." "Returned” gives a voice to these children and bring a larger awareness to the difficulties that they are now facing.

Chris Riedesel, VP of The Artivist Collective asked Robert Koenig to describe his feelings about being honored with an Artivist Award.

“Receiving the award of Best Short, Children's Advocacy for "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" at the 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival is an amazing honor.” Koenig said. “I was delighted just to have the film selected as part of the Artivist Film Festival, because their mission of raising awareness for global causes furthers the mission of our film. Receiving an Artivist Award makes me appreciate that this film has the potential to influence people to take action and help these children. I am extremely proud of the entire team that worked so hard to make this film a reality.”

The 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival will take place on October 2 – 5, 2008, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. Additionally, Artivist Films be touring a selection of films over the following two months in London, Lisbon, Mexico City and Tokyo.

Films that premiered at the Artivist Film Festival include ACADEMY AWARD winner "Born into Brothels", ACADEMY AWARD Nominee "Super Size Me", ACADEMY AWARD Nominee, "God Sleeps in Rwanda", and the premieres of "Fast Food Nation", "Emmanuelle's Gift", "Trudell", and more.

To see a preview or learn more about the film Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army go to

To arrange for Robert Koenig to show the film "Returned" and speak to your school, group, workshop or seminar, or to arrange an interview with Robert Koenig or Brandon Kohrt, please go to the contact page at