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Myanmar Urged To Act Against Forced Labour

UN Labour Agency Calls On Myanmar To Act Against Forced Labour

New York, Jun 19 2006

The United Nations labour agency has called on Myanmar to take “tangible and verifiable” measures within the next few months on the issue of forced labour or face the prospect of further action.

At the end of its sessions on Friday, the 95th Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) called for the release of any person imprisoned following contacts with the ILO an end to prosecutions currently underway by the end of July.

It also sought agreement between Myanmar and the ILO by the end of October on a credible mechanism for dealing with complaints of forced labour with all necessary guarantees for the protection of complainants.

At its November session, the ILO Governing Body will examine whether these measures have been taken and will have full authority to decide on the most appropriate course of action.

During the Conference, Myanmar expressed a willingness to cooperate with the ILO and released Su Su Nwe from detention. Her release had been called for by the ILO since her imprisonment last year, a few months after she successfully prosecuted government officials for imposing forced labour.

ILO’s Committee on the Application of Standards took note of information from the Ambassador of Myanmar that his Government would put a six-month moratorium on prosecutions of complainants on an experimental basis and that during this period, as an interim measure, the complaints of forced labour would be handled by the Director-General of the country’s Labour Department together with the ILO Liaison Officer.

The Committee underlined that although this may sound positive, it was late and limited. Words had to be urgently confirmed by deeds in all relevant matters, in particular the acquittal and release of persons who had already been prosecuted and the cessation of prosecutions currently underway.

The authorities now needed to immediately enter into discussions with the ILO, with a view to establishing as soon as possible a credible mechanism for dealing with complaints of forced labour, the Committee said.

The issue of forced labour has been before the ILO for several years. In May 2003, the Agency and Myanmar came to a Formal Understanding on a facilitator to help possible victims seek remedies. In addition, a Plan of Action was to comprise a road-building project, alternatives to the use of forced labour, and information and awareness raising.

The Committee also examined other cases covering forced labour as well as freedom of association, discrimination, child labour, employment policy, labour inspection and wages, adopting special paragraphs expressing concern over freedom of association in Bangladesh and Belarus.

In the case of Belarus, there had been continued failure to eliminate serious discrepancies in the application of the relevant Conventions, the Committee said, adding that further action would be considered by the Governing Body in November.

ENDS

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