Special sitting to examine
developments concerning the question of the observance
by the Government of
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
developments since the 289th Session of the Governing Body
(March 2004)........................................................................................................ 2
Appendix: Letter dated
1. In the conclusions it adopted last year at the close of the special sitting concerning the application by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the Committee on the Application of Standards inter alia noted with appreciation the Government’s cooperation with the ILO Liaison Officer in Myanmar, but had to note that the measures taken by the Government still had not resulted in tangible progress in the application of the Convention. The Committee welcomed the fact that the Government and the ILO had agreed on 27 May 2003 on a joint Plan of Action for the elimination of forced labour and expressed its support for this Plan, but deplored the situation created by recent events in Myanmar, noting that a climate of uncertainty and intimidation did not provide an environment in which the Plan of Action, and in particular the Facilitator mechanism which it established, could be implemented in a credible manner. The Committee expressed the hope that the implementation of the joint Plan of Action would go ahead as soon as the Director-General considered that the conditions were met for its effective implementation. The following brief overview of the main developments since its last session should be of interest to the Committee.
2. At its 288th Session (November 2003), the Governing Body had before it two reports from the Liaison Officer on her activities and other developments since June 2003.  The Governing Body endorsed the Chairperson’s conclusions, in particular regarding the importance he felt should be accorded to the introductory statement made by the representative of Myanmar, from which it appeared that the Myanmar authorities were in agreement that the representatives of the Director-General should undertake, according to the modalities that had been successfully applied previously, a complete review of the situation with the aim of an implementation of the Plan of Action as rapidly as possible. On this basis, the Governing Body agreed to postpone until its March 2004 session the consideration of the proposal to reactivate the measures envisaged under the resolution adopted in June 2000 by the Conference, on the understanding that a complete report on the situation, with appropriate recommendations, would be submitted to it by the Director-General.
3. The Liaison Officer, Ms. Hông-Trang Perret Nguyen, completed her appointment at the end of November 2003. Mr. Richard Horsey was appointed Liaison Officer ad interim from 1 December.
4. The 289th Session (March 2004) of the Governing Body had before it
three reports: (i) a report from the Liaison Officer a.i. on his
activities,  (ii) a
report of the preliminary phase of an evaluation visit to Yangon under the
November 2003 understanding reached by the Governing Body, carried out by Mr.
Francis Maupain, Special Adviser to the ILO Director-General, together with the
Liaison Officer a.i., 
and (iii) a report on the latest developments in the case of certain persons
sentenced to death for high treason, including the observations of the future
Facilitator concerning his visit to two of the detained persons. 
The Governing Body concluded that while positive developments had taken place
since November 2003 and the authorities had demonstrated an openness to
cooperate, the discovery of a court judgement against certain persons in
relation to contacts or exchange of information with the ILO had undermined the
credibility and prospects for future cooperation. The conclusions identified
three separate concerns which had been expressed. The first concern was that
contacts or exchange of information with the ILO could in any way have judicial
5. On 9 April the Liaison Officer a.i. met with the Minister for Labour in order to discuss the outcome of the Governing Body debate and the steps which could be envisaged to give effect to the Governing Body’s conclusions. The Liaison Officer a.i. had further meetings with the Minister on 7 and 24 May, together with the informal facilitator Mr. de Riedmatten.
6. In a meeting on 29 April with the Director-General of the Myanmar Department of Labour, the Liaison Officer a.i. had the opportunity to discuss matters relating to the practical elimination of forced labour. A meeting on 5 May with the Convention 29 Implementation Committee provided the opportunity to have more detailed discussions in this regard, as set out in paragraphs 18-20 below. In a subsequent meeting on 18 May with the Director-General of the Department of Labour, the Liaison Officer a.i. was able to reiterate some of the comments and concerns that he had expressed in the meeting with the Convention 29 Implementation Committee.
7. In addition to these meetings with the authorities, the Liaison
Officer a.i. also had the opportunity
to have discussions with the diplomatic community in
8. From 10 to 15 May, the Liaison Officer a.i. travelled to
9. Since the finalization of his report to the 289th Session of the
Governing Body in March, the Liaison Officer a.i. has received a considerable number of additional complaints,
mostly from alleged victims or their representatives, concerning incidents of
forced labour. This brings the total number of complaints received so far in
2004 to 40. The Liaison Officer a.i. has
now transmitted 21 of these cases to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee
for investigation and action. 
In two further cases, the individuals who presented allegations to the Liaison
Officer a.i. had also lodged direct
complaints with a
10. On 12 March the Liaison Officer a.i. transmitted to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee an allegation of forced labour that he had received from an individual from Naukmee village in Bogalay township (Ayeyawaddy Division). This individual alleged that they had very recently been forced by the local authorities to participate in the upgrading of a village access road along with hundreds of other villagers from several villages in the area. The individual also alleged that forced labour had been imposed for a number of other projects in the recent past.
11. On 7 April the Liaison Officer a.i.
transmitted to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee an allegation of
forced labour that he had received from a number of individuals from Toungup
12. On 9 April the Liaison Officer a.i. transmitted to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee three further allegations of forced labour that he had received. The first of these allegations was made by three individuals from Pantanaw township (Ayeyawaddy Division). These individuals alleged that villagers from one village tract in the area were currently being forced by the local authorities to carry out guard duty at a local official’s house and at a nearby fish-breeding project being implemented by the local authorities. They also had to work clearing land for a football field.
13. The second allegation transmitted to the Committee on 9 April was made by an individual from Magu village tract in Bogalay township (Ayeyawaddy Division). According to this allegation, two villagers were required by the local authorities at all times for general duties at the village tract office. Villagers carried out this duty on a rotation basis, and anyone who failed to be present was subject to a fine. Villagers were also forced to participate in other projects, such as constructing embankments and widening the access road. Copies of two orders from the local authorities requisitioning such labour were provided.
14. The third allegation transmitted to the Committee on 9 April was made by an individual from Ama village tract in Bogalay township (Ayeyawaddy Division). According to this allegation, one person from each household had been forced by the local authorities for the previous three weeks to participate in the construction of 13 government offices as part of a project to upgrade Ama to a sub-township.
15. On 29 April the Liaison Officer a.i. transmitted to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee an allegation of forced labour that he had received from an individual from Monywa township (Sagaing Division). According to this allegation, villagers from five villages were being forced to work on the resurfacing with rocks of a five-mile section of road. In addition to the labour the villagers had to provide the rock chippings, which entailed financial costs.
16. On 20 May the Liaison Officer a.i.
transmitted to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee a case of forced
labour that had come to his attention during his recent visit to
17. In letters dated 11 and 18 March, and 8, 23 and 30 April, the Liaison Officer a.i. transmitted to the Convention 29 Implementation Committee nine detailed allegations concerning forced recruitment into the army. Information concerning the alleged circumstances of the recruitment, together with copies of identification documents of the boys, was provided to the Committee. Seven of these allegations concerned the forcible recruitment of boys between the ages of 13 and 16. The Liaison Officer a.i. requested the Committee to ensure that urgent action was taken to verify these allegations in order that, if they were confirmed, these children could be returned to the care of their families as soon as possible and an urgent investigation then carried out into the circumstances of their recruitment so that any person found to have acted illegally could be prosecuted. Of the remaining two cases, one concerned a 15-year-old boy who it was alleged was forcibly recruited into the army, but then ran away after two months and resumed his education. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced by court martial to four years’ imprisonment for desertion. The Liaison Officer a.i. requested the Committee to ensure that an urgent investigation was carried out in order that, if the information was confirmed, the court martial verdict would be reviewed and the individual released as appropriate. The other case concerned a 13-year-old boy who it was alleged was recruited into the military against his will. A few months later, after completing basic training and being posted to a battalion, he was allowed a home visit and subsequently did not return to his battalion. He was therefore now facing the possibility of being arrested and court-martialled for desertion. The Liaison Officer a.i. requested the Committee to ensure that urgent action was taken to verify this information in order that, if it was confirmed, the individual could be given a formal discharge from the military and assurances that no action would be taken against him. In both of these cases, the Liaison Officer a.i. also requested the Committee, if the information was confirmed, to ensure that investigations were carried out into the circumstances of recruitment so that any person found to have acted illegally could be prosecuted.
18. Meeting with the Convention 29 Implementation Committee. On 5 May the Liaison Officer a.i. met with the Implementation Committee and was briefed on the recent work of the Committee and the action taken in light of the various allegations, as detailed below. The Liaison Officer a.i. thanked the Committee for the information on its work and for the cooperation that he had received. The Liaison Officer a.i. noted the increasing number of allegations he was receiving from individuals, as well as the first complaint under section 374 of the Penal Code. This demonstrated not only a degree of confidence in the ILO, but also showed that complainants had a degree of confidence that the authorities would take action in cases of forced labour. It was important that the Committee continue to take concrete and credible action in response to allegations. In this regard, the Liaison Officer a.i. noted that most of the allegations transmitted in the last few months were still under investigation, and he was still awaiting written reports on those investigations that had been completed. So far, none of the allegations that had been brought to the attention of the Committee had been found by the Committee to be correct, and the Committee had not found any cases of forced labour through its field observation teams.  The Liaison Officer a.i. was aware that in some cases forced labour practices had been stopped and administrative action had been taken against local officials as a result of allegations that he had transmitted. However, if the official position of the Committee continued to be that the allegations were unfounded, this would inevitably cast doubt on the credibility of the Committee and its work, particularly given the increasing number of allegations. These comments and concerns were reiterated by the Liaison Officer a.i. in a letter to the Committee following the meeting, and in subsequent meetings with the Minister for Labour and the Director-General of the Department of Labour.
19. Detailed responses to allegations. During
the Implementation Committee meeting, the representative of the Ministry of
Defence provided information on action that had been taken with regard to
allegations concerning the military. He indicated that the allegation of forced
labour in Thandaung township (
20. The Committee then provided information on action that had been taken on allegations concerning local authorities. As regards the allegation of forced labour in Twantay township (Yangon Division),  the Committee indicated that this allegation was unfounded, but that the district chairman had nevertheless been removed from his post for “being a burden to the people”. This was confirmed in a letter from the Director-General of the Department of General Administration received that day. The remaining allegations were still under investigation.
21. On 26 May the Liaison Officer a.i. received information from the Ministry of Defence, transmitted in a letter from the Department of Labour. According to this information, investigations had been carried out into five allegations of forced recruitment transmitted by the Liaison Officer a.i. In one case, it was found that the person was not serving in the battalion alleged, and in the other four cases the information in the allegations was confirmed, except as regards the dates of birth of the persons concerned, which in all cases were such that the persons would have been 18 or over at the time of recruitment.  In three cases the information indicated that after interviewing the persons and confirming that they were voluntary recruits it had been learned that their parents “had been persuaded to make false allegations”. In the fourth case it was indicated that the person was serving a sentence for desertion. The Liaison Officer a.i. notes that he saw original identification documents (such as birth certificates and family registration lists) showing the age of the individuals in all these cases, and that copies of these were transmitted to the authorities together with the allegations. The evidence received thus contradicts the assertions of the authorities.
22. On 12 May the Supreme Court of Myanmar issued a judgement following an appeal on behalf of nine persons sentenced to death for high treason, including the three persons whose conviction had an ILO element.
23. On 14 May, the Liaison Officer a.i. received a letter from the Department of Labour providing some details of the Supreme Court judgement. The conviction of U Shwe Mahn for high treason had been upheld, but the sentence was commuted from death to transportation for life.  The convictions of Nai Min Kyi and U Aye Myint were altered to section 123 of the Penal Code (encouraging, harbouring or comforting persons guilty of high treason) and their sentence was commuted from death to three years’ imprisonment.
24. The Liaison Officer a.i. then requested that the authorities provide a copy of the Supreme Court judgement as soon as possible. The Liaison Officer a.i. reiterated this request in a letter to the Minister for Labour dated 20 May, together with a request for access to the convicted persons for himself and the informal facilitator, Mr. Léon de Riedmatten. The Liaison Officer a.i. and Mr. de Riedmatten were informed in a meeting with the Minister on 24 May that access had been granted to the three detainees the following day, and that the Supreme Court judgement would also be provided the following day.
25. On the morning of 25 May, the Liaison Officer a.i. and Mr. de Riedmatten met with the three convicted persons, U Shwe Mahn, Nai Min Kyi and U Aye Myint, in Insein Prison. The observations of Mr. de Riedmatten following this visit were transmitted to the Minister for Labour in a letter dated 25 May (this letter is reproduced in the Appendix).
26. Just as this report was being completed, the Liaison Officer a.i. received from the
27. An appropriate summary of the judgement together with any further information, including any action proposed by the Officers of the Governing Body in the framework of the conclusion adopted by the Governing Body at its March 2004 session, will be provided separately to the Committee (see paragraph 4 above).
I am writing on behalf of Mr. de Riedmatten to convey his observations following this morning’s visit to the three detained persons (that is, Nai Min Kyi, U Aye Myint and U Shwe Mahn) in Insein Prison.
Mr. de Riedmatten and myself were able to visit the three persons in Insein Prison and discuss freely with them in a place of our own choosing within the prison. The prison authorities gave their full cooperation.
All three persons expressed their wish to appeal against the judgement of the Supreme Court. Their defence lawyer will be informed accordingly. Mr. de Riedmatten recommends that the authorities expedite this appeals procedure as quickly as possible, and believes that it would be important for the authorities to be able to confirm, in advance of the forthcoming International Labour Conference, that such an appeal has been accepted.
In this regard, Mr. de Riedmatten notes that the defence lawyer has not yet been granted access to the three persons. It is important for the three persons to be able to meet with their lawyer at any time, in particular so that the appeals process can be facilitated.
Following these meetings, Mr. de Riedmatten continues to be firmly of the view that the only grounds for convicting U Shwe Mahn is possession of an unregistered satellite telephone, which he had used to contact the FTUB on matters relating to forced labour and workers’ rights. There would therefore be no grounds for charging U Shwe Mahn with high treason or aiding and abetting high treason. He also continues to be firmly of the view that the contacts that Nai Min Kyi and U Aye Myint had with U Shwe Mahn on matters relating to forced labour and workers’ rights do not constitute grounds for charging these two persons with aiding and abetting high treason.
With the assurances of my highest consideration,
(Signed) Richard Horsey.
 GB.288/5 and GB.288/5/1.
 He travelled from
 Of the remaining cases, five were rejected on the grounds that they were not sufficiently precise or credible for action to be taken, five cases were judged not to fall within the mandate of the Liaison Officer, seven cases of forced recruitment had already been the subject of interventions by another agency, and two cases were sub judice as the complainants had made direct complaints to a court under section 374 of the Penal Code (see below).
 Section 374 of the Penal Code makes forced labour a criminal offence, in the following terms: “Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labour against the will of that person shall [be] punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
 No new visits by field observation teams had taken place since the last meeting with the Committee on 29 January. However, in a letter dated 26 May the Director-General of the Department of Labour (who serves as Joint Secretary of the Implementation Committee) indicated that he had held a two-day workshop for 120 participants, including a number of senior officials, on “Raising awareness of ILO Convention 29” in Myeik township, Tanintharyi Division.
 This allegation was transmitted to the Committee on 24 February. See GB.289/8, para. 18.
 This allegation was transmitted to the Committee on 28 January. See GB.289/8, para. 15.
 There were also some slight discrepancies in the dates of recruitment. Four of the five cases were those that the representative of the Ministry of Defence had provided information on in the Implementation Committee, although there were further discrepancies between his statement and the letter concerning the ages of the persons concerned.
 This is equivalent to a term of life imprisonment.