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ILO REPORT ON BURMA 99-05-21 (r)
- Subject: ILO REPORT ON BURMA 99-05-21 (r)
- From: darnott@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 20:08:00
Subject: ILO REPORT ON BURMA 99-05-21 (4/4)
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE
Geneva, 21 May 1999
Report of the Director-General to the members of the Governing Body on
Measures taken by the Government of Myanmar following the recommendations of
the Commission of Inquiry established to examine its observance of the Forced
Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
THE REPORT IS ALSO ON THE ILO WEBSITE AT
THIS REPORT IS DIVIDED INTO 4 SLICES FOR EASY DOWNLOADING.
56. In paragraph 539(c) of its recommendations(32) the Commission of Inquiry
urged the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure:
that the penalties which may be imposed under section 374 of the Penal Code
the exaction of forced labour or compulsory labour be strictly enforced,
in conformity with Article 25 of the Convention. This requires thorough
investigation, prosecution and adequate punishment of those found guilty.
57. No action under section 374 of the Penal Code has so far been brought to
the knowledge of the ILO.(33)
58. In this connection, it may be worthwhile to recall the following
observations of the Commission of Inquiry in paragraph 514 of its report:
In so far as some of the forced or compulsory labour exacted in violation of
the Convention may be imposed in conformity with the provisions of the Village
Act or the Towns Act that are themselves contrary to the Convention, the
necessary amendments to those provisions of the Village Act or Towns Act may
have to be brought into force before the corresponding exaction of forced or
compulsory labour becomes "unlawful" in national law and punishable under
article 374 of the Penal Code. However, the provisions of the Village Act and
the Towns Act authorizing recourse to compulsory labour had at some stage been
declared obsolete and are in practice never invoked when imposing forced or
compulsory labour. Moreover, there are a number of instances of exaction of
forced labour, in particular where people are directly rounded up by the
military for compulsory service without a requisition of the village head or
ward authorities, which even under the very wide provisions of the Village Act
and the Towns Act appear unlawful in national law and should have given rise
already to prosecution under article 374 of the Penal Code. The lack of
enforcement in practice of article 374 of the Penal Code violates the
obligations of Myanmar under Article 25 of the Convention.
59. In his address to the opening session of the 13th ASEAN Labour Ministers
Meeting on 14 May 1999, Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt indicated that:
There have been allegations of the use of forced labour in Myanmar. If one is
to believe some of the allegations found in the Western media, the picture is
indeed rather bleak. We felt very strongly that these allegations were largely
due to misconception and misunderstanding of the situation and the
Since a sound infrastructure is essential for economic development, our
Government has placed special emphasis on this sector. Hence, a sustained
effort to improve the infrastructure of our economy by building roads,
rail network, dams and reservoirs has been undertaken. Realizing the benefits
to the communities from these projects, people have voluntarily contributed
labour so that they can be completed sooner. Moreover, in Myanmar thinking,
contribution of labour not only brings immediate material benefit in the
present life, but also merit for future life cycles.
Without understanding these factors, some people have made all sorts of
allegations. On our part, to dispel these wrong impressions, the Government
issued instructions that only remunerated labour must be used in
At the same time, with the return of peace, we are now mainly using our
military personnel to undertake these public works. Therefore, the allegations
of forced labour are groundless.(34)
60. Referring to similar indications made by the Government in the past, the
Commission of Inquiry recalled, in concluding its recommendations under
paragraph 539 of its report, that:
... the blurring of the borderline between compulsory and voluntary labour,
recurrent throughout the Government's statements ..., was all the more likely
to occur in actual recruitment by local or military officials. The power to
impose compulsory labour will not cease to be taken for granted unless those
used to exercising it are actually brought to the face criminal
61. Despite the Order issued by the Government of Myanmar on 14 May 1999 there
is no indication that the three recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry
have yet been followed:
(a) the Village Act and the Towns Act have not been amended;
(b) in actual practice forced or compulsory labour continues to be imposed
(c) no action appears to have been taken under section 374 of the Penal
punish those exacting forced labour.
GOVERNMENT OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR
DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
BLDG. NO. 53, FIRST FLOOR, STRAND ROAD
DATE: 12th May 1999.
The International Labour Office
CH 1211, Geneva 22, Switzerland
Fax: (22) 798 86 85
Subject: Report of the ILO Commission of Inquiry
(1) The letter dated 18 February 1999 of the Director-General of the
(2) The letter dated 1 April 1999 of the Director-General of the International
Dear Mr. Director-General,
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 1 April 1999 requesting me,
pursuant to the decision of the Governing Body adopted at its 274th
inform you of any measures which my government might have taken on each of the
recommendations set out in the report of Commission of Inquiry.
In this connection, I wish to inform you preliminarily that the practical
measures envisaged to be taken on the recommendations have been submitted to
the Government of the Union of Myanmar for decision and they are already in
process of being
actively considered by the high authorities.
I will be most delighted to communicate to you as soon as the matter has been
(Signed) (Sein Myint)
Department of Labour
GOVERNMENT OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR
DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
BLDG. No. 53, FIRST FLOOR; STRAND ROAD
DATE: 18th May 1999.
International Labour Office
CH 1211, Geneva 22, Switzerland
Fax: (22) 798 86 85
Subject: Report of the Commission of Inquiry
Dear Mr. Director-General,
May I refer to my letter of 12 May 1999, in which I indicated that practical
measures would be taken regarding the recommendations by the ILO Commission of
Inquiry relating to the observance of the Forced Labour Convention 1930
(Convention No. 29).
I am happy to inform you that the Ministry of Home Affairs of the
the Union of Myanmar, has issued an Order dated 14 May 1999, in which the
relevant authorities were directed not to exercise the powers conferred on
Provisions namely, Section 7 Sub-section (1) (L) and (m), and Section 9 and 9A
of the Towns Act, 1907 and also Section 8 Sub-section (1) (g) (n) and (o),
Section 11 (d) and Section 12 of the Village Act, 1907.
I may mention that this Order clearly stipulated that any person who fails to
abide by this order shall have action taken against him under the existing
This Order has already been made public and has been circulated to all State
Bodies, Government Ministries and all local administrative bodies and it will
be published in the Myanmar National Gazette where all Laws, Procedures,
Notifications, Regulations and Directives are published.
You may also be aware that the 13th ASEAN Labour Ministerial Meeting was held
in Yangon, Myanmar, from 14-15 May 1999, at the conclusion of which Myanmar
Government at the Press Conference made known to local and international media
regarding the above action.
(Signed) (Soe Nyunt)
Government of the Union of Myanmar
The Ministry of Home Affairs
Order No. 1/99
Yangon, the 15th, Waning of Kason 1361 ME
(14th May 1999)
Order Directing Not To Exercise Powers Under Certain Provisions of The Towns
Act, 1907 and the Village Act, 1907
1. The Government of The Union of Myanmar, the Ministry of Home Affairs hereby
issues this Order under the directive of the Memorandum dated 14-5-99, Letter
No. 04/Na Ya Ka (U)/Ma Nya of the State Peace and Development Council.
2. Under Section 7 of the Towns Act, 1907, powers have been conferred on the
Chairmen of the Ward Peace and Development Councils to enable them to execute
their public duties. Among such powers, the right to requisition for personal
service of the residents of the ward is provided in Sub-section (1)(l) and (m)
of Section 7. It is provided in Section 9 that residents of the ward shall
fulfil the duty assigned under the said power and it is provided in section 9A
that on failing to fulfil such duty, action may be taken against them.
3. Similarly, under Section 8 of the Village Act, 1907 also, powers have been
conferred on the Chairmen of the Village Tract Peace and Development Councils
to enable them to execute their public duties. Among such powers, the right to
requisition for personal service of the residents of the village tract is
provided in Sub-section (1)(g), (n) and (o) of section 8. It is provided in
section 11(d) that the residents of the village tract shall fulfil the duty
assigned under the said power and it is provided in section 12 that on failing
to fulfil such duty, action may be taken against them.
4. In order to make the Towns Act, 1907 and the Village Act, 1907 conform to
the changing situation such as security, administrative, economic and social
conditions within the internal domain of the State, the Ministry of Home
Affairs has been
scrutinizing and reviewing as to how the said Acts should be amended, inserted
and deleted, in coordination with the relevant ministries, Government
departments and organizations.
5. As such, this Order is hereby issued directing the Chairmen of the Ward and
Village Tract Peace and Development Councils and the responsible persons of
Department of General Administration and the Myanmar Police Force not to
exercise powers under these provisions relating to requisition for personal
service prescribed in the above-mentioned Towns Act, 1907 and the Village Act,
1907, until and unless any further directive is issued, except for the
(a) requisition for personal service in work or service exacted in cases of
emergency on the occurrence of disasters such as fire, flood, storm,
earthquake, epidemic diseases that would endanger the existence or the
well-being of the population;
(b) requisition for personal service in work or service which is of important
direct interest for the community and general public and is of present or
imminent necessity, and for which it has been impossible to obtain voluntary
labour by offer of usual rates of
wages and which will not lay too heavy a burden upon the present population.
6. Any person who fails to abide by this Order shall have action taken against
him under the existing law.
(Signed) Col. Tin Hlaing
Ministry of Home Affairs
(1) Office of the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council;
(2) Office of the State Peace and Development Council;
(3) Office of the Government;
(4) Supreme Court;
(5) Office of the Attorney General;
(6) Office of the Auditor General;
(7) Public Services Selection and Training Board;
(8) All Ministries;
(9) Director General, Department of General Administration (Forwarded for
information and for further circulation of the copy of this Order to the
Divisional, District and Township Administrative Officers Subordinate to him);
(10) Police Major General, Myanmar Police Force (Forwarded for information and
for further circulation of the copy of this Order to the relevant departments
and organizations subordinate to him);
(11) Director General, Department of Special Investigation;
(12) Director General, Prisons Department;
(13) All State and Divisional Peace and Development Councils;
(14) All District Peace and Development Councils;
(15) All Township Peace and Development Councils (Forwarded for information
for further circulation of the copy of this Order to the Chairmen of the Ward
and Village Tract Peace and Development Councils Subordinate to it);
(16) Managing Director, Printing and Publishing Enterprise (with a request for
publication in the Myanmar Gazette).
1. ILO Governing Body, 274th Session (March 1999), Record of decisions
(GB.274/205), para. 12.
2. Forced labour in Myanmar (Burma), Report of the Commission of Inquiry
appointed under article 26 of the Constitution of the International Labour
Organization to examine the observance of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930
(No. 29). ILO Official Bulletin, Vol. LXXXI, 1998, Series B, Special
Supplement. The full text of the report is also available on the ILO
the following address:
3. ibid., paras. 536 and 537.
4. ibid., para. 539.
5. ibid., para. 540.
6. Para. 470 of the Commission's report. See also paras. 237 et seq. of the
report for details of these Acts.
7. See paras. 471 and 472 of the Commission's report.
8. ibid., para. 539(a), reproduced in para. 5 above.
9. Reproduced as Appendix I to the present report.
10. Reproduced as Appendix II to the present report.
11. State Peace and Development Council.
12. Para. 539(b) of the Commission's report, reproduced in para. 5 above.
13. Appendices I and II.
14. Para. (529 and para.) 539(b) of the Commission's report, reproduced in
para. 5 above.
15. SPDC Orders to Villages, Set 99-B, Thaton and Pa'an Districts, Order dated
15 Dec. 1998, registered as Order T6.
16. To protect witnesses from reprisals, the ICFTU has requested the Office to
take, with regard to the documents submitted (including the abovementioned
forced labour orders) all necessary safety measures and precautions, identical
to those taken in the course of the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry.
17. See para. 24 above.
18. UN document E/CN.4/1999/35, 22 Jan. 1999, para. 48.
19. UN document E/CN.4/1999/35, 22 Jan. 1999, para. 44.
20. ibid., para. 45.
21. Para. 539(b) of the Commission's report, reproduced in para. 5 above.
22. Appendix II and para. 10 above.
23. Appendix III.
24. Erroneously dated 1907 in the published Order.
25. Para. 472 in fine; see also paras. 214-215.
26. ILO, 86th Session, Geneva, 1998, Report III (Part 1A), Report of the
Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, p.
27. Paras. 218 and 472.
28. See paras. 198-204 of the Commission's report.
29. Para. 472; see also paras. 217 and 122 et seq. of the Commission's
30. Para. 539(b) of the Commission's report, referring to paras. 481 and 529.
See also para. 5 above.
32. Se para. 5 above.
33. A single case of disciplinary action was reported by a government, as
reflected in para. 47 above.
34. The full text of the address was published by BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific
on 17 May 1999.
For further information, please contact the Official Relations Branch
Tel: +41.22.799.7732, Fax: +41.22.799.8944
E-mail: dale@xxxxxxx (Governing Body business only, please).
Copyright ® 1999 International Labour Organization (ILO)
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