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True face of our new free trade friends

25 May 2005

Murder in Burma shows the true face of our new friends under free trade deals

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says the murder of a Burmese trade unionist is a shocking warning to New Zealand as it goes further down the slippery path of free trade.

Ko Moe Naung, a Seafarers' Union of Burma organizer in the Ranong region, was murdered by Burmese military forces on on 19 May 2005.

The Seafarers' Union of Burma is a fellow affiliate with the Maritime Union of New Zealand to the International Transport Workers' Federation.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says free trade deals mean that New Zealand is now effectively working alongside fascist dictatorships such as Burma which murder workers such as Ko Moe Naung.

In December 2004, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced New Zealand, Australia, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are to launch negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement. Burma is a member of ASEAN.

Mr Hanson says the Government's claim that free trade discussions give us an opportunity to build closer links with our ASEAN neighbours now has a sinister ring.

"The Maritime Union is staunchly opposed to free trade deals that lock New Zealand into close relationships with countries that repress, crush and murder working people and their representatives," says Mr Hanson.

Mr Hanson says he is especially concerned with the growth of an international "grey market" in short term, casual labour that will mean such practices spread as free trade deals are locked in.

"Free trade advocates justify their links to human rights abuses by saying that democracy will spread to dictatorships through free trade. We think it is more likely that the repressive and brutal practices in some countries will spread back towards us."

He says the recent Government report into the fishing industry showed beatings and abuse of overseas crews were taking place in New Zealand waters, so the process had already begun. The Seafarers' Union of Burma informed the ITF that Ko Moe was arrested at 8:00 pm local time on 19 May at his residence in Ranong by unidentified men.

He was brought to 8-Mile Village Army Base LIR 431 in Kawthaung, Burma and in the space of three hours was tortured to death during interrogation.

Ko Moe was a dedicated trade union leader, who was organising Burmese fishermen and migrant workers from Burma at the Ranong area.

It is clear that he was targeted by the 'State Peace and Development Council' regime because of these activities.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand will continue to fight for workers' rights and against big business driven free trade policies.

ENDS

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