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The BBC's David Bamford
"The international community is not united on the issue"
 real 28k

John Duhan, International Labour Association
"Widespread violations"
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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 02:30 GMT 03:30 UK
Burma condemned over slave labour

A United Nations conference in Geneva has approved unprecedented measures against Burma over its use of forced labour.

The International Labour Organisation gave the Burmese military government until 30 November to put an end to the practice, or face diplomatic sanctions.

The resolution was approved by a large majority of 275 to 41 as Western states demanded immediate action, while Asian countries including China, Japan, India and Malaysia, opposed the move.

Burma described the vote as unfair, unreasonable and unjust.

I should like to express our hope that the avenue of cooperation has not been completely closed

Than Mya, Burmese Ambassador
Burma's Ambassador Than Mya insisted his country was the victim of an "arbitrary judgment based on misinformation".

But he indicated that his country would not like its international ties to be severed.

"I should like to express our hope that the avenue of cooperation has not been completely closed," he said.

Malaysia too called on the conference to deal with the issue "through cooperation rather than resorting to drastic measures."

Slave labour

Trade Unions estimate that more than 800,000 Burmese are forced to work as army porters or workers in construction and agriculture, with little or no pay and in slave-like conditions.

Last year, Burma was denied ILO assistance after it was reported that forced labor was widely used for infrastructure projects in the country.

Burma said the work was offered freely for the development of the nation.

The current resolution recommends that ILO members review their links with Burma and make sure that it "cannot take advantage of such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labor."

The ILO can also appeal to international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to put pressure on Burma.

The issue will now be discussed at every future ILO conference until Burma is shown to have stopped using forced labor.

The resolution does not mention economic sanctions and the ILO's governing body has no teeth to enforce such measures.

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See also:

25 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma discusses forced labour
18 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
Burma slammed over forced labour
20 Aug 98 | Asia-Pacific
ILO attacks Burma forced labour
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