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AP-Asean 'should wage war on forced

Subject: AP-Asean 'should wage war on forced labour' 

Friday  May 14  1999

Asean 'should wage war on forced labour'

Amnesty International yesterday called on members of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to pressure fellow member Burma to end
forced labour and repression of trade unionists.

The call came ahead of a two-day meeting of labour ministers from the 10
member countries of Asean to be held in Rangoon from today.

"Asean government ministers are meeting to discuss labour issues in a
country where thousands of people are routinely seized and forced to work
against their will and where trade unionists are jailed," the rights group

"The time has come for Asean to live up to the promise it made when
admitting Burma in 1997 to lead efforts for change in that country."

The ruling junta routinely uses forced labour, usually for infrastructure
projects, say critics, which include the International Labour Organisation,
the US Government and international trade union federations.

"During the last seven years the scale of forced labour has increased
dramatically, involving hundreds of thousands of civilians including
criminal and political prisoners," it said.

The military routinely forced members of the Shan, Karen and Karenni ethnic
minorities to contribute their labour to build "so-called 'development
projects'," Amnesty said.

"Many must spend so much of their time working for the military that they
cannot support themselves and their families."

It said another form of forced labour was portering, usually in areas where
the Government was carrying out counter-insurgency activities against ethnic
rebel groups.

Government troops "simply take civilians from their villages and make them
carry heavy supplies and ammunition through mountainous jungle".

"They are often tied up and guarded at night, are never paid and are given
very little food. Porters are often beaten if they become too weak to carry
their loads and cannot keep up with the military column," Amnesty said.

The group also noted that free trade unions do not exist in Burma and that
several union activists are serving long prison terms for their political