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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 19:17 GMT
ILO builds pressure over forced labour
Pipeline building in Burma
ILO says military forces villagers to build installations
By BBC Geneva correspondent Emma Jane Kirby

The International Labour Office (ILO) has expressed "profound concern" over the limited impact of government measures to end forced labour in Burma.

The ball is in the camp of the [Burmese] authorities

ILO special adviser Francis Maupain
The organisation has called for a permanent ILO presence in the country to monitor continued efforts to eradicate the practice.

The decision came after a debate on the report of a high level team in the country, but the ILO said it was satisfied that some progress had been made.

The governing body of the ILO concluded that, in spite of legislation introduced a year ago, the practice of forced labour persisted in many parts of Burma, especially in areas where the military has a significant presence.

Credibility gap

While acknowledging that Burma had made some efforts to remedy the problem, the governing body endorsed the report's proposal to establish an ombudsman in the country, to whom complaints could be submitted and who would have a mandate to conduct impartial investigations into alleged cases of forced labour.

Throughout the debate, the lack of credibility of Burma's legal system was raised and the governing body acknowledged that if the authorities were to allow a permanent ILO representation in Burma, more victims of forced labour would feel able to come forward and the practice could be monitored efficiently.

Francis Maupain, a special adviser to the ILO said Burma had not ruled out such a proposal.

Positive signs

"The really good and terrific thing is that the report was considered as a fair basis by everybody including Myanmar [Burma], so that is something quite exceptional," he said.

"So now, in a way, the ball is in the camp of the authorities and they have not closed the door. It can be reasonably hopeful that maybe they are going to follow up and at least to engage in a discussion."

The ILO's governing body is due to review the situation in Burma again in March.

See also:

08 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
ILO says Burma still using forced labour
16 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma rejects EU charges
12 Oct 01 | Europe
EU probes Burma pipeline abuses
12 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
UK urges oil firm to quit Burma
14 Aug 98 | Burma
Multinationals and human rights
25 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma discusses forced labour
06 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Investigators silent after Burma visit
10 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma slowly comes in from the cold
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