Ratifying ILO convention should be child’s play

An International Labour Organization (ILO) convention prohibiting the worst forms of child labour will come into effect in Burma in December.

Though the Burmese government became a party to the Convention No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour last year, its stipulations have not yet come into effect. The agreement requires that states parties define, identify and eradicate the worst forms of abuse.

Burma took a step towards this goal on Wednesday, as the bicameral parliament passed the convention into law.

The worst forms of child labour, according to the ILO, are slavery, bondage, forced recruitment for use in armed conflicts, sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Child labour is common in Burma and, until now, the government has done little to stop it. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security has now vowed to implement the convention in full.

“The ILO Convention No 182, concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour will come into effect in Burma starting from 18 December, 2014 – one year after Burma became a signatory,” the ministry’s chief Aye Myint told parliament on Wednesday.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party believes that implementing the convention will help to encourage the United States, the European Union and others to dismiss their remaining sanctions on Burma.

The Burmese armed forces and Ministry of Defence-owned entities were not covered in the recent American lifting of sanctions. The Burmese army has long been accused of abusing children as forced labourers and fighting conscripts.

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“The government is supportive of the move, which is why they made the proposal to the parliament today,” said USDP Secretary General Htay Oo, who is also a member of the parliamentary Committee for Citizens’ Fundamental Rights, Democracy and Human Rights.

“The whole Union Parliament agreed that this is a sensible thing to do,” he added.

Because Burma has now ratified the convention, they must take immediate action to abolish child labour, and enforce laws so that those who break them are punished. The government also pledged to rehabilitate children who have suffered labour abuses by providing free education and support services.

To date, 179 countries have ratified the ILO’s convention.

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