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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
UN accuses Burma on forced labour
By Kylie Morris
BBC correspondent, Bangkok

Rangoon street traders
Isolation has hurt the Burmese
The International Labour Organization (ILO) says forced labour remains a serious problem in Burma.

The situation has been a topic at the ILO's annual meeting in Geneva.

It has heard that while there have been some improvements ordinary Burmese are still required to work against their will to build local infrastructures.

At its office in Rangoon, the ILO reports an increasing number of complaints of forced labour despite a government pledge to end the practice.

No withdrawal plans

The UN agency says the use of forced labour on large national infrastructure projects has stopped, now villagers are drafted to work on mainly local projects like road building.

Normally households must provide workers on demand to village heads.

Other cases involved forced recruitment into the army for jobs like carrying equipment often close to the front line.

There is anecdotal evidence of porters being used by troops to act as human minesweepers.

The ILO has heard of one 15-year-old boy who ran away two months after he was allegedly recruited against his will by the army.

He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to four years' imprisonment for desertion.

The ILO's plans to work with the Burmese government are currently on hold after the arrest of three men who were found in possession of the business card of an ILO representative in Rangoon.

All three were originally sentenced to death for high treason but on appeal one man's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and the remaining two sentenced to three years in jail.

The ILO says it has no plans to leave Burma as there have been some improvements but it has urged the Burmese authorities to start to take action against those who still rely on forced labour.


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