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Cablegate: Labor Minister Rejects Ilo Action Plan

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS RANGOON 000355

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL/IL
USPACOM FOR FPA
LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PHUM BM
SUBJECT: LABOR MINISTER REJECTS ILO ACTION PLAN

REF: RANGOON 300

1. (SBU) COM Martinez met with Labor Minister Tin Winn on
March 18 to encourage greater Burmese cooperation with the
ILO on forced labor. Specifically, the COM urged the
Minister to accept Rangoon ILO Liaison Officer Ms.
Perret-Nguyen's recommendations for a plan of action to be
presented at the ILO Governing Body on March 26-27. While
Tin Winn said he has worked closely with Ms. Perret-Nguyen on
the proposed plan of action, his government could not accept
elements of the plan that she deemed essential for a
minimally acceptable presentation to the GB. Tin Winn said
his government would not accept the concept of a "mediator"
empowered to receive and follow-up complaints regarding
forced labor. He also rejected the idea of a pilot region
where forced labor would be strictly prohibited and
alternatives explored because, as envisioned by the ILO, the
mediator would play a central role in the pilot region.

2. (SBU) Responding to COM's recommendation that the
government's implementation committee against forced labor
needed a representative from the army (the largest user of
forced labor in the country), Tin Winn said the government
considered putting a representative from the military
Inspector General's office on the Committee but decided a
military intelligence officer with experience in
international relations would be more appropriate. Minister
Tin Winn said the Burmese government has adequate mechanisms
in place for receiving and investigations of complaints of
forced labor and adequate laws for prosecution when
necessary. The Labor Minister emphasized that the GOB will
continue to focus on public awareness campaigns to ensure
that citizens understand that forced labor is not legal. He
dismissed the COM's comments that most victims of forced
labor remained fearful of reporting abuses.

3. (SBU) Later the same day, ILO Liaison Officer Ms.
Perret-Nguyen told COM that, on the eve of her departure for
the GB meeting in Geneva, she was very discouraged by the
government's intransigence on even the minimal elements
necessary for a meaningful plan of action. Ms. Perret-Nguyen
said the GOB appears to have reached a critical juncture on
the issue of forced labor; it does not know how to wean
itself off of a dependency on forced labor yet it is
unwilling to allow the ILO, or any outsiders, the necessary
access to help solve the problem. She said that in a meeting
on March 5th, the Labor Minister asked if GOB acceptance of
the two minimally required elements she was proposing to
include in the action plan would satisfy the GB. When she
responded that the GB would probably ask for more steps to be
taken (but she would work together with the GOB to address
these concerns), the Minister said that there was no
incentive for the GOB to accept these minimal elements if
more requirements were to follow. Perret-Nguyen said that
the Minister appeared to be in the difficult position of
attempting to appease the ILO without allowing real changes
(i.e., greater transparency) that he knew Senior General Than
Shwe and other memebrs of the military leadership would
reject. As it stands now, she said, she cannot endorse the
government's plan and she expects that the GB will be quite
critical of it.
Martinez

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