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Last Updated: Friday, 25 March, 2005, 10:02 GMT
Burma warned over forced labour
By Kylie Morris
BBC South East Asia correspondent

Burmese labourer
Patience with Burma's working conditions is running out
The International Labour Organisation has warned Burma that it is running out of time to prove its commitment to ending forced labour.

At a Geneva meeting, the ILO governing body agreed to give Rangoon until June to make progress on the issue.

Delegates heard that while some headway had been made, forced labour remained widespread under Burma's ruling junta.

Burmese citizens are reportedly made to work on farms and on the construction of roads and bridges.

Many are unpaid and face fines if they do not co-operate.

Divided views

In effect, the ILO has called on individual member states to reconsider whether they should impose sanctions on Burma. But there was no overall consensus at the Geneva meeting.

Representatives of trade unions urged a return to sanctions, while employer and government members were more cautious.

But there is shared concern that trade with Burma may contribute to the continued use of forced labour.

According to the ILO, the army is the worst offender.

Delegates heard how the military sometimes forces people to help it construct camps and to work as porters across dangerous terrain.

It is even thought to forcibly recruit under-age soldiers.

While the ILO had been working with the Burmese military government to stop forced labour, the organisation says it wants to see clear evidence of progress.

Some countries already have sanctions in place against Burma, with the United States the most comprehensive and Japan and the European Union employing milder measures.

The ILO is due to make a final recommendation when the full membership meets in June.

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