ILO conference to address forced labour in Burma

May 26, 2008 (DVB), The forced labour situation in Burma will be on the agenda at the International Labour Organisation's annual conference in Geneva this week, an ILO official told DVB.

Steve Marshall, the ILO liaison officer in Rangoon, said he would present a report on the current situation to a special sitting on Burma scheduled for 31 May.

Marshall said there had been some progress on forced labour issues, but much more needed to be done.

"We are quietly making progress, but not as quickly as we could or should be," he said.

"We're still working hard to try and improve things, to make sure that people understand what their rights are, and also what other people's responsibilities are; they are the critical issues for us."

Marshall urged greater commitment on all sides to eliminating forced labour practices.

"Small steps of progress are made; that is all good, because every little bit helps," he said.

"However, if we really want to do some justice to this issue and to try and really work towards the elimination of forced labour then a much more committed effort on the part of all parties is really required."

The ILO is continuing to receive forced labour complaints on a range of issues, including infrastructure work, forced crop-growing, enforced guard duties, portering and military recruitment of children.

Marshall said around 89 complaints had been received in the past year, and 46 formal complaints had been submitted to the Burmese government.

When asked if he was able to investigate forced labour complaints on the ground, Marshall said he had undertaken one recent trip which he described as "constructive".

"I went up through to Taunggok and visited a number of townships on the way, in Bago division," he said.

"That was as a direct result of a complaint received and an agreement with the government that we would carry out a joint mission to follow up on that complaint."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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