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Myanmar must free forced labour plaintiffs by July 31: ILO

From AFP/The Independent, Bangladesh
June 17, 2006
link to this article.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) members yesterday gave Myanmar until July 31 to release anyone jailed for complaining to international monitors about being press-ganged by the country's military junta.

The UN labour agency's annual conference, which has spotlighted the military-run Asian nation for several years, said Myanmar had until the same date to halt prosecutions of anyone who has complained about forced labour.

In addition, Myanmar must agree by the end of October to a "credible mechanism" for dealing with complaints, one which guarantees the protection of plaintiffs.

Resolving the long-running problem of forced labour is possible only if there is a real commitment from the government, which must undertake "tangible and verifiable" action, the conference decided.

The ILO has been trying for almost a decade get the government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to crack down on forced labour-which is banned under the country's law.

In 1998 an ILO inquiry found that forced labour was pervasive and systematic throughout the country, particularly with the military.

In 2000 the ILO recommended trade and other sanctions against Myanmar because of its lack of cooperation in tackling the practice.

The sanctions recommendation was frozen in 2001 after promises from Myanmar's leaders to stop forced labour and accept limited ILO surveillance.

The ILO and Myanmar agreed on a programme to crack down on forced labour in May 2003, but it fell apart two days later when the country's ruling junta detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A year ago the conference of the ILO-whose 178 members include Myanmar-called on the government to resume a "real dialogue" with the Geneva-based organisation.

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