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Burma-Forced Labor for Tourism-UN

Burma may use forced labor for tourism, UN says 
    By Evelyn Leopold
    UNITED NATIONS, Nov 6 (Reuter) - Burma may be using forced
labour to restore landmarks for foreign tourists in an effort to
promote 1996 as ``Visit Myanmar Year,'' the United Nations said
in a report released on Monday.
    The report to the General Assembly by a U.N. special human
rights investigator also speaks of summary executions, torture
and rape by the army with impunity.
    The human rights rapporteur, Yozo Yokota of Japan, said
there were allegations that Burma, which calls itself Myanmar,
had used forced labour to restore such tourist sites as Mandalay
Palace and upgrade the country's railways, roads and airports.
    The government, he said, had proclaimed 1996 as ``Visit
Myanmar Year,'' an action which could be viewed as a sign of
opening up of the country.
    ``Forced labour has allegedly been used to restore some of
the tourist sights,'' he said. Workers must pay to rent
bulldozers, buy their own tools and supply their own food.
    In Karen state, scene of sporadic fighting between the
military and insurgent groups, Yokata said several sources
reported an increase of forced labour, accompanied by ``physical
abuse, appalling living conditions and arbitrary killings of
porters who are unable to perform their tasks.''
    Last April, for example, two porters were beaten to death
for requesting water supplies that had been cut in Ka Neh Lay.
    In response, the government denied allegations of killings
and torture. It also said it was a tradition in Myanmar's
culture to donate labour in the building of pagodas,
monasteries, roads and bridges.
    The local populace as well as army and government employees
``participate enthusiastically and conscientiously,'' and U.N.
agencies were involved in such restoration projects, the
government said.
    Soldiers, the U.N. report said, viewed rape as a right with
women prisoners, in forced labour camps and among porters;
officers sometimes encouraged such behaviour.
    ``These include the undressing of women in public, touching
breasts or sucking nipples, raping and gang-raping women
individually or in groups,'' Yokata said.
    The government, which answered each point in the report,
said the charges were unfounded and it could do little unless
the victims brought their cases to the proper authorities.
    The ruling military government has not recognised 1990
elections and has refused to give up power to followers of Nobel
Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house
arrest in July. Yokata last visited Burma in October but did not
include his observations in this report.
    He told reporters at Rangoon airport then that he was
impressed with both her willingness and the government's
readiness ``to meet each other and to work together.''
    Nevertheless, he said in the report that politicians were
still imprisoned, and there was still a ``high-level of
intimidation'' although jailing people for anti-government
activities appeared less frequent.