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Fwd: ICFTU OnLine: URGENT - Forced

>X-From_: janek.kuczkiewicz@xxxxxxxxx  Fri May  7 11:37:47 1999
>From: "Kuczkiewicz, Janek" <janek.kuczkiewicz@xxxxxxxxx>
>To: "'rtrburo@xxxxxxxxxxxx'" <rtrburo@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
>Subject: ICFTU OnLine: URGENT - Forced Labour in Burma
>Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 10:31:40 +0100
>X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.0.1458.49)
>X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by mail.iprolink.ch id 
>> ICFTU OnLine...
>> 091/990507/JK
>> On the eve of an ASEAN labour ministers summit in Rangoon
>> Global labour group brings fresh evidence of forced labour in Burma
>> Brussels, May 7 1999 (ICFTU OnLine): While Labour ministers  from the
>> Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare for a Summit
>> in controversial Rangoon next week, the International Confederation of
>> Free Trade (ICFTU) is bringing fresh evidence on the systematic resort
>> by Burma's military junta to forced labour. The Brussels-based global
>> labour group has urged its member organisations in ASEAN countries to
>> call on their governments to cancel their participation at the Rangoon
>> meeting or, failing that, to make sure that the issue of forced labour
>> is prominent on their agenda.
>> The ICFTU's accusations are contained in an original report submitted
>> this week to the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO). The new
>> 15-page report is supplemented by over  900 pages of evidence, drawing
>> on information from all parts of the 48-million inhabitants' country,
>> and compiled from 14 different sources, including the United Nations
>> as well as several governments and non-governmental organisations.
>> According to ICFTU estimates over 800,000 Burmese are still victims of
>> forced labour. The document includes evidence acquired last April by
>> the Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB),  whose underground
>> structures, operating deep inside army-controlled territory, last
>> month uncovered signs of a growing rift between Burma's regular
>> infantry battalions and the regime's military intelligence (MI)
>> units. The two branches are at odds over their respective share of
>> money, food supplies and forced labour quotas extorted from the
>> civilian population in large areas of the southern Pegu Division,
>> located just North of the capital, Rangoon. Profits are reported to be
>> weighing heavily in favour of a senior MI officer, identified as Shan
>> Pu and said to report directly to Gen. Khin Nyunt. The latter is head
>> of Burma's Military Intelligence and is widely regarded as holding
>> supreme power within the State Peace and Development Committee, as the
>> military junta has been calling itself since November 1997.
>> In other evidence, obtained from human rights structures working
>> alongside the ethnic Karen opposition movement, the ICFTU identified
>> at least 5 army officers, whom it accused of extorting forced labour
>> and of other severe human rights' abuses against the civilian
>> population. They range from a Lieutenant, identified as Lt. Maung
>> Maung Nyunt, to one Lt. Colonel Myo Thain, commanding the 30th
>> Infantry Battalion of the Tadmadaw (Burmese name of the country's
>> national armed forces). A total of 14 army units, ranging from company
>> to brigade-level in strength, are identified in one single document
>> appended to the ICFTU report. Over 40 similar documents, based on
>> hundreds of first-hand accounts and eye-witnesses reports, are
>> appended to the ICFTU submission to the ILO.
>> The ICFTU's  latest report is designed to help the ILO's Governing
>> Body assess what measures can be taken in order to force Burma's
>> authorities to comply with the ruling of the organisation's Commission
>> of Inquiry into its forced labour practices.  The Commission, which
>> released its findings last August, accused Burma's military regime of
>> condoning crimes against humanity by resorting on a massive scale to
>> forced labour in its running of the country's economy. It established,
>> inter alia, that Burma's "forced labourers, including those sick or
>> injured, are frequently beaten or otherwise physically abused by
>> soldiers, resulting in serious injuries; some are killed, and women
>> performing compulsory labour are raped or otherwise sexually abused by
>> soldiers". 
>> The ICFTU report strongly suggests that the practice, which under
>> international law is tantamount to slavery, has continued to develop
>> throughout the country. In March this year, the ILO's Governing Body
>> requested the organisation's newly-appointed Director-General, Mr.
>> Juan Somavia, to report back on the issue by 21st May 1999 at the
>> latest.
>> "By allowing forced labour to continue unabated, Burma's military
>> clique keeps seeing the country's entire population as a bottomless
>> reservoir of free manpower and, in doing so, treats the ILO and its
>> supervisory bodies with utter contempt", the ICFTU General Secretary
>> Bill Jordan said today in Brussels. "That ASEAN Labour Ministers
>> should even consider meeting on a equal footing with Burma's generals
>> in their bunker-like capital is an insult to the international
>> community in general, and to the Burmese people in particular", Jordan
>> added. Burma was made a Member of the Association of South-East Asian
>> Nations (ASEAN) last year, in the face of open criticism by European
>> Union states. The military junta's admission into the 8-member SE
>> Asian nation's club has been a thorn in the side of EU-ASEAN relations
>> ever since.
>> In 1995, the ICFTU successfully attacked Burma's military regime
>> through a legal procedure falling under the European Union's
>> Generalised System of Preferences, or GSP. This first-ever complaint
>> against a third-party state under the EU GSP's labour-related legal
>> provisions had led the European Community to cancel Burma's trade
>> benefits on its exports to the EU, in 1997.
>> The ICFTU's report will also be presented later this month to a
>> three-day international trade union conference on solidarity with the
>> workers and people of Burma. Scheduled to start in Bangkok (Thailand)
>> on May 24, the conference is widely expected to adopt an international
>> programme of action against Burma's military dictatorship, which will
>> include a call on world-wide dis-investment from Burma by
>> multinational companies still operating there.
>> The Brussels-based ICFTU groups 213 national trade union centres in
>> 143 countries representing 124 million workers world-wide.
>> Contact: ICFTU Trade Union Rights Dpt: ++ 32 2 2240201 or ICFTU-Press
>> at: ++32-2 224.02.12 (Brussels). For more information, visit our
>> website at: (http://www.icftu.org).

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