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UN Report on Burma.


UNITED NATIONS, Tuesday: Burma may be using forced labour to testore
landmarks for foreign tourists in an effort to promote 1996 as "Visit
Myanmar Year", the United Nations said in a report released yesterday.

The report to General Assembly by UN special human rights investigator Yozo
Yokota, of Japan, also speaks of summary executions, torture and rape by the
army with impunity.

He 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 Goverment, 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. Wokers must pay to rent bulldozers, buy their own tools
and supply their own food.

Mr Yokota said that in Karen state, scene of sporadic fighting between the
miltary and insurgent groups, several sources reported an increase in forced
labour, accompanied by "physical abuse, appalling living conditions and
arbitary killings of porters were beaten to death for requesting water
supplies that had been cut in Ka Neh Lay.

The Government denied the 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 employes "participate
enthusiastically and conscientiously", and UN agencies were involved in such
restoration projects.

The UN report said that soldiers viewed rape as a right with women
prisoners, and officers sometimes encouraged such behaviour.

The Government, which answered each point in the report, said the charges
were unfounded and it could do little unless the victims brought theor cases
to the proper authorities.

The rulling military goverment 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.

Mr Yokota last visited Burma in October but did not include his observations
in this report. He told reporters at Rnagoon airport then that he was
impressed with Aung San's willingness "to meet each other and to work together".

Nevertheless, he said in the report that politicians there were still
imprisoned, and there was still a "high-level of intimidation", although
jailing people for anti-goverment activities appeared less frequent.


(THE CANBERRA TIMES, Wednesday, November 8,1995, Page 20).