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No reduction in forced labour, says ILO

Feb 27, 2009 (DVB), There has been no reduction in the use of forced labour in Burma despite work done by the International Labour Organisation to eradicate it, says ILO's liasion officer in Rangoon, Steve Marshall.

The ILO's Executive Director, Kari Tapiola, is currently in Burma to extend for another year the ILO's cooperation agreement with the Burmese regime.

The agreement stipulates that the government must not harass or arrest people who report forced labour to the ILO or collect information on such practices.

"In terms of the forced labour issue, we continue to receive complaints," said Marshall. "It is running at about the same level. It has not increased dramatically but it has not decreased either."

Tapiola had said in March 2008 that forced labour was continuing in the country, and in some areas was getting worse.

"I do not think the government can deny the existence of forced labour, and we know many forced labour cases are taking place," he said.

"Forced labour by civilian authorities might decline but the use of forced labor by the military is getting worse."

On the cooperation agreement, however, Marshall said it is a mechanism that, in principal, works.

"The important thing is that citizens of Myanmar understand that they have got the right to complain and that if they do complain their complaint will be listened to and will be actioned," he said.

He added, however, that there are still grey areas which the government is exploiting.

"There is, however, the situation where a person who was the facilitator for that complaint has been charged under the law on a different offence not related to the lodgment of the complaint," he said.

"We are very concerned that there may in fact be an indirect link to his working on that complaint."

On Saturday Tapiola will visit the ILO project in the delta. The project, according to Marshall, is designed as a best practice in employment to show that small-scale infrastructure work can be done without the use of forced labour.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw


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