ILO tells Myanmar to stop forced labor
GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. International Labour Organization told Myanmar on Saturday to end forced labor, saying the action it had taken so far was "totally inadequate."
But the ILO's committee on labor standards stopped short of referring Myanmar to the International Court of Justice, the top U.N. tribunal, as worker representatives demanded.
The ILO has been at odds with the former Burma for more than a decade over what it says is a widespread practice of forcing villagers to work on infrastructure projects or as porters for the army.
The committee said Myanmar's military government had taken some steps to tackle underage recruitment into the military, and to publicize a temporary complaints mechanism, which was extended for one year.
"The Committee was however of the view that these steps are totally inadequate," it said in the conclusions of its meeting.
The committee told the government it must amend both existing legislation and the new constitution to ban forced labor, publicize the ban, punish those who impose it, and stop harassing people who complain about it or those who help them.
Myanmar's ambassador in Geneva, Wunna Maung Lwin, told the committee: "Myanmar has shown its political will, and she has been and will be cooperating with the ILO in a constructive manner with a view to eradicating the practice of forced labor in the country."
But employers' and workers' representatives and Western governments at the ILO dismissed this.
A report by the ILO's liaison officer in Myanmar, Steve Marshall, said only 152 complaints of forced labor had been received under the mechanism agreed in 2007.
"The government continues to play the diplomatic game of doing just enough to create an appearance of cooperation ... No one in this room is fooled by that," said Edward Potter, who speaks for the employers' group on the committee.
Several workers' representatives called for disinvestment from Myanmar, which is rich in oil, gas, timber and gems, and was once a major rice producer.
But Myanmar drew support from China, which values Myanmar as a source of raw materials and route to the Indian Ocean, and from India, which has recently toned down criticism of its neighbor for fear of allowing Chinese influence to grow.
"We are glad to notice that ... the two sides have been conducting close cooperation, taking substantive actions with substantive achievements made," the Chinese representative said.
India also said Myanmar and the ILO had made tangible progress in tackling forced labor.
Myanmar also got backing from fellow members of the Southeast Asian grouping ASEAN.
Singapore urged it to redouble efforts to end forced labor, but criticized speakers who raised the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader currently on trial after years of house arrest, or referred to Myanmar as Burma.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this