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FORCED LABOUR CLAUSES "DROPPED"



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According to a DPA wire of 17 May, 1999:

"Myanmar (Burmese) military authorities announced on Saturday that they had
dropped controversial clauses in a colonial-era law that allowed for forced
labour in the country.

"Myanmar's labour Minister Major General Tin Ngwe told a press conference
Saturday that the junta had dropped two clauses in the country's Town Act and
Village Act, of 1907 and 1908 respectively, which had essentially allowed
governments to demand labour contributions to state infrastructure projects.

"The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been demanding that the junta
amend the two acts, which date back to the era when Myanmar was a British
colony.

"Myanmar's current military regime has been severely criticized by western
nations and the ILO for its widespread use of forced labour on government
infrastructure projects, if not as porters for the army's campaigns against
minority groups......."

A couple of questions come to mind: 

The ILO Commission of Inquiry into Forced Labour in Myanmar (Burma) 
recommended that the Village and Towns Acts be amended by 1 May 1999, and that
the practice of forced labour end immediately. On the latter, there is no
evidence from the ground that forced labour has diminished since the ILO report
was issued in July 1998-- if anything, the opposite is true. To make an
announcement that a couple of paragraphs have been "dropped" is a very easy
gesture. What is more difficult is to cease the practice, which is an integral
part of Burma's economic life (the US State Dept's 1996 "Foreign Economic
Trends" report on Burma even quantifies it. 

Another question is whether the Burmese military has any power to amend laws.
As an over-staying de-facto martial law administration, it has no authority to
enact legislation. According to an authoritative report issued in 1990 by the
International Human Rights Law Group, "Post-Election Myanmar: A Popular Mandate
Withheld": 

"SLORC's [State Law and Order Restoration Council's] declaration retroactively
abolishing the Constitution has no legal power because, under Myanmar law, only
the People's Assembly [Pyithu Hluttaw, the body that was elected in 1990, but
which the junta has not allowed to convene] can annul or suspend the country's
constitution. The 1974 Constitution reserves exclusively for the People's
Assembly the authority to amend, reject or repeal existing law". [1974
Constitution, Chapter XVI, art 202(b), (d).]

As it happens, the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP) has
already amended the Acts in question (on 2 October , 1998, in one of its first
acts on behalf of the Parliament elected in 1990).

Of course, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which following its
earlier manifestation, SLORC, rules "by decree", may not have even pretended to
amend the Acts in question ("dropped two clauses" is a somewhat imprecise
expression), but simply issued one of its interminable "notifications",
"declarations", "announcements" etc, which have as much legal authority as all
its actions, i.e., none.  




Internet ProLink PC User

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<html>
<font size=4>According to a DPA wire of 17 May, 1999:<br>
<br>
&quot;Myanmar (Burmese) military authorities announced on Saturday that
they had dropped controversial clauses in a colonial-era law that allowed
for forced labour in the country.<br>
<br>
&quot;Myanmar's labour Minister Major General Tin Ngwe told a press
conference Saturday that the junta had dropped two clauses in the
country's Town Act and Village Act, of 1907 and 1908 respectively, which
had essentially allowed governments to demand labour contributions to
state infrastructure projects.<br>
<br>
&quot;The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been demanding that
the junta amend the two acts, which date back to the era when Myanmar was
a British colony.<br>
<br>
&quot;Myanmar's current military regime has been severely criticized by
western nations and the ILO for its widespread use of forced labour on
government infrastructure projects, if not as porters for the army's
campaigns against minority groups.......&quot;<br>
<br>
A couple of questions come to mind: <br>
<br>
The ILO Commission of Inquiry into Forced Labour in Myanmar (Burma)&nbsp;
recommended that the Village and Towns Acts be amended by 1 May 1999, and
that the practice of forced labour end immediately. On the latter, there
is no evidence from the ground that forced labour has diminished since
the ILO report was issued in July 1998-- if anything, the opposite is
true. To make an announcement that a couple of paragraphs have been
&quot;dropped&quot; is a very easy gesture. What is more difficult is to
cease the practice, which is an integral part of Burma's economic life
(the US State Dept's 1996 &quot;Foreign Economic Trends&quot; report on
Burma even quantifies it. <br>
<br>
Another question is whether the Burmese military has any power to amend
laws. As an over-staying de-facto martial law administration, it has no
authority to enact legislation. According to an authoritative report
issued in 1990 by the International Human Rights Law Group,
&quot;Post-Election Myanmar: A Popular Mandate Withheld&quot;: <br>
<br>
&quot;SLORC's [State Law and Order Restoration Council's] declaration
retroactively abolishing the Constitution has no legal power because,
under Myanmar law, only the People's Assembly [Pyithu Hluttaw, the body
that was elected in 1990, but which the junta has not allowed to convene]
can annul or suspend the country's constitution. The 1974 Constitution
reserves exclusively for the People's Assembly the authority to amend,
reject or repeal existing law&quot;. [1974 Constitution, Chapter XVI, art
202(b), (d).]<br>
<br>
As it happens, the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP)
has already amended the Acts in question (on 2 October , 1998, in one of
its first acts on behalf of the Parliament elected in 1990).<br>
<br>
Of course, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which
following its earlier manifestation, SLORC, rules &quot;by decree&quot;,
may not have even pretended to amend the Acts in question (&quot;dropped
two clauses&quot; is a somewhat imprecise expression), but simply issued
one of its interminable &quot;notifications&quot;,
&quot;declarations&quot;, &quot;announcements&quot; etc, which have as
much legal authority as all its actions, i.e., none.&nbsp; <br>
<br>
<br>
<br>
</font><br>
<div>Internet ProLink PC User</div>
</html>

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