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ILO to discuss forced labour in Burma

Mar 20, 2008 (DVB), The International Labour Organisation will hold a forum on Burma tomorrow at its Geneva headquarters to discuss forced labour issues and the extended agreement with the Burmese regime to stop the practice.

Kari Tapiola, executive director of the ILO Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector, said the meeting would focus on three main topics.

"One of them is of course the extension of the trial period [of ILO cooperation with the government], which we are reporting and explaining that during the next year, issues like education, information and publication should take place and we should be able to extend our activities," he said.

Tapiola said the forum would also look at people in detention and the need for the Burmese government to make a clear political commitment to stop using forced labour.

He also mentioned the case of U Thet Wei, the National League for Democracy chairperson in San Chaung township who was arrested for possession of reports on forced labour to be passed to the ILO.

"The case of Thet Wei was provisionally solved. We trust that the government will honour its commitments and will not harass him any more," he said.

Steve Marshall, the ILO liaison officer in Rangoon, said that the ILO's agreement with the Burmese regime gives him the right to investigate the complaints he receives.

"The understanding gives people the right to complain. It also makes provision that people exercising that right to complain have got protection from harassment," he said.

"It also gives me the right, on receiving a complaint, to travel around the country as required, to assess those complaints, to decide whether they are actually a justifiable complaint which I should then raise with the government."

Marshall stressed the need for people to report forced labour complaints to the ILO so that he could begin to take action.

"Now the critical issue is that people understand they have the right to complain, and the protection under this agreement to complain," he explained.

"But the first point is that somebody must actually make a complaint to us. Then I have the authority to assess that complaint and take it further on their behalf."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw


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