Myanmar disappointed over ILO vote

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Fri Nov 24 17:54:00 MST 2000



Saturday
18 November 2000

Myanmar disappointed over ILO vote
YANGON: Myanmar expressed bitter disappointment on Friday over the
International Labour Organisation's (ILO) decision to invite its members to
bring sanctions against the military regime, over the issue of forced
labour.
A senior spokesman for the junta said that efforts to stamp out the
practice, and its willingness to cooperate with the ILO monitoring team
which visited Yangon twice this year, had been ignored.
"The ILO decision to activate measures against Myanmar proves that the ILO
and, the governing body in particular, have already made up their minds and
don't want to be confused with any facts," he said.
"They have turned a blind eye on the efforts, positive developments, sincere
cooperation and the political will the Myanmar government has taken, to be
in accordance with the ILO convention (on) forced labour."
The spokesman said "big and powerful nations" were using labour rights as "a
pretext to coerce, pressurise and interfere in the domestic affairs" of
poorer countries.
The ILO had ordered Myanmar to comply with recommendations made by a 1998
committee of inquiry, which found forced labour to be "widespread and
systematic."
Sanctions were recommended by the International Labour Conferencee in June
but put on hold until the end of this month to give the junta time to take
concrete action.
The ILO team, which made a six-day mission to the country last month, found
the government had made progress in changing its laws to end the use of
forced labour, but far less in putting legislative changes into practice.
In the months preceding the ILO's decision, Myanmar's generals had indicated
they were extremely concerned about the action, which could lead to further
sanctions from its member states and organisations.
It now remains to be seen what action will be taken against the regime,
which is already labouring under wide-ranging international sanctions that
have helped cripple the economy.
Sources in Yangon said the junta was anxious to avoid trade union bans that
would see its agricultural exports turned away from ports around the world,
particularly on the eastern seaboard of India.
It is feared that any new trade bans would deal a mortal blow to the
economy, which critics say is saved from complete collapse only by the
thriving black market and profits from the drugs trade.
Sources close to the negotiations between ILO team leader Francis Maupain
and the government said the two sides developed a good working relationship
during the mission's visits.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win told AFP last week that Myanmar was
"hoping for the best but prepared for the worst" ahead of the ILO's vote,
but nevertheless the decision has come as a great disappointment.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) says nearly one
million people are currently subjected to forced labour in Myanmar.
The Brussels-based organisation said this week it had also examined more
than 400 labour requisition orders issued by members of the army and several
dozen witness statements since June.
ICFTU's general secretary Bill Jordan has welcomed the ILO's "firm position"
and said it "not only sends a strong signal to the generals in Rangoon but
is also a message of hope for Burmese democrats and for the hundreds of
thousands of victims of inhuman exploitation." (AFP)
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