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Myanmar opposition blasts junta wit

Subject: Myanmar opposition blasts junta with new allegation of forced labour

Myanmar opposition blasts junta with new allegation of forced labour

Wed 04 Nov 98 - 11:09 GMT

YANGON, Nov 4 (AFP) - Myanmar villagers are being rounded up and forced to
work on a land clearing project near the capital to boost crop production,
opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD) said Wednesday.

The NLD accused the junta of blatantly lying to the international community
when it said last week there was no forced labour in the military state
after it was condemned by the European Union and the United Nations.

"The authorities have declared to the world that there are no instances of
forced labour in this country but it is very clear that this is untrue," an
NLD statement said.

"Local authorities are forcing villagers (at Htantabin township) to send one
person from each family to work on the land reclamation project where they
are made to toil under the scorching sun without any rest."

The NLD, led by Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, said that in the latest
instance of forced labour, soldiers were being used to round up villagers.
Some 500 had already been sent to work on the project.

Authorities also had used loud speakers to warn villagers of unspecified
"consequences" if they refused to work.

The junta, which has not recognised the NLD's sweeping victory in 1990
elections, has repeatedly dismissed accusations of widespread human rights
abuses including summary executions, torture and forced labour.

Last week, a report to the United Nations by special rapporteur Rajsoomer
Lallah expressed deep concern about continuing human rights violations in
Myanmar, while the EU renewed sanctions against the junta citing rights

The NLD said it had complained officially to the junta leadership that
villagers were being forced to clear land for cultivation.

The junta is known to be on a major drive to increase its rice export
capacity by developing large areas for production.

Foreign investment has dropped dramatically in Myanmar in recent years,
while inflation has soared and the local currency, the kyat, has depreciated
sharply against the US dollar.

)AFP 1998