93rd Session, Geneva, June 2005


Committee on the Application of Standards




Conclusions adopted by the Committee at its Special Sitting on Myanmar


(Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29))




Draft report

After taking note of the information from the Government representative, the Committee noted with grave concern the observation of the Committee of Experts which examined the measures taken by the Government to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. The Committee of Experts had once again pointed out in its observation that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry had still not been implemented. The Committee of Experts and the vast majority of speakers in the Committee had expressed its strongest condemnation and urged the Government to demonstrate its stated determination to eliminate forced labour and to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the Convention. The extent of forced labour had not significantly changed in most areas, including ethnic areas, and its worst forms - including forced labour for the army and forced recruitment of child soldiers - continued.


In this regard, the Committee had taken note of the latest developments reported by the Director-General as well as by the interim Liaison Officer. The Committee welcomed the release of the third person in the high treason case, but regretted that he was not exonerated of the charges. The Committee could only deplore the fact that the Government had failed to demonstrate sufficient commitment to the elimination of forced labour, as reflected both by its treatment of the very High-Level Team (vHLT), and by its response to the concrete steps recommended by the vHLT and by the Governing Body. The Committee was alarmed in particular by the Government's stated intention to prosecute people it accuses of lodging false complaints of forced labour, and by the apparent intimidation of complainants.


In the view of the Committee, recent developments had further confirmed the conclusions of the Governing Body at its March 2005 session that the "wait-and-see" attitude that prevailed among most members since 2001 had lost its raison d'etre and could not continue. The Committee's general view was that Governments, Employers and Workers, as well as other international organizations, should now activate and intensify the review of their relations with Myanmar that they were called upon to make under the 2000 resolution, and to urgently take the appropriate actions, including as regards foreign direct investment in all its various forms, relations with State- or military-owned enterprises in Myanmar. In accordance with the conclusions of the Governing Body in March, the present conclusions should be transmitted to all those to whom the 2000 resolution was addressed. The results of such reviews should be fully reported to the Director-General so that the Governing Body could have a complete picture in November. As regards the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it should be requested to reactivate its consideration of the item placed on its agenda in 2001 in this regard, and Members in ECOSOC should be ready to support such a move.


The Committee noted that a number of serious issues, some of which were already identified by the vHLT in its aide-memoire, needed to be urgently resolved:


1.      The Government should give clear assurances that no action would be taken against persons lodging complaints of forced labour, or their representatives, in order that the Liaison Officer could fully continue to accept and channel such complaints to the competent authorities, and urgent discussions should be undertaken with a view to making available the safeguards and protection built into the Facilitator mechanism.


2.     A number of serious allegations of forced labour that were still outstanding, including those concerning the army, should be resolved in a credible manner.


3.      The ILO's  presence in Myanmar should be strengthened to enhance its capacity to carry out all its various functions, and the Government should issue the necessary visas without delay.


4.      The freedom of movement of the Liaison Officer as recognized by the Understanding and necessary to the discharge of his functions should be fully respected.


The Committee was of the view that the test of the real commitment of the authorities was and still remained their willingness to urgently discuss the outstanding issues at the highest level and to commit to a substantive policy dialogue that can finally address the forced labour problem. This commitment should moreover be reflected in changes to the law as well as in any future Constitution. Depending on developments in this regard, the general view was that the Governing Body at its next session should not limit itself to reviewing the steps taken under the 2000 resolution, but should also be ready to consider further steps.