[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

(AP) U.N. body approves unprecedent

U.N. body approves unprecedented action against Myanmar


AP, Geneva, 14 June 2000. A U.N. conference on Wednesday approved
unprecedented measures against Myanmar over the widespread use of
forced labor, but gave the country four months to prove its willingness
to change.

International Labor Organization delegates agreed in a 257-41 vote,
with 31 abstentions, to invoke a special article in ILO rules against
Myanmar, also known as Burma a move fiercely opposed by Asian

Myanmar denounced the move as ''most unfair, most unreasonable
and most unjust.'' The action was proposed Friday by an ILO committee,
where it was opposed by Japan, China, Malaysia and India.
They and other Asian nations spoke out against it Wednesday.

It was the first time the article had been used. In a compromise, the
resolution put off action until the ILO governing body meets in
November  to review whether Myanmar is making serious efforts to
stamp out forced labor.

The resolution recommends that ILO members governments, workers
and employers ''review their links with Myanmar and take appropriate
measures to ensure (Myanmar) cannot take advantage of such
relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labor.''

It also refers the issue to a high-level U.N. committee and agrees it will
be discussed in special sessions at every future ILO conference until
Myanmar is shown to have stopped using forced labor. The ILO
has no mechanism to expel a member.

The measure was hotly contested by Myanmar and its Asian neighbors.
Myanmar Ambassador Than Mya insisted his country was the victim of
an ''arbitrary judgment based on misinformation.''

''Today is indeed a sad day for the ILO and a sad day for the developing
countries that are members of the ILO,'' he told delegates. But he appeared
to keep the door open for cooperation.

''I should like to express our hope that the avenue of cooperation has not 
completely closed,'' Than added. ''We have indicated our willingness to 
in good faith.''

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

Western officials were unimpressed.

''The record hardly shows the change of attitude some would suggest,''
said U.S. Deputy Labor Secretary Andrew Samet. ''There is no dialogue,
only more denial.''

The European Union said the ILO move was ''an appropriate response
to an extreme situation,'' labeling it ''the minimum that one can and one
should do.''

Last year the ILO barred Myanmar from receiving assistance after a
commission reported on the widespread use of forced labor for infrastructure
projects in the country. Myanmar claimed that the work was offered freely
for the development of the nation.

Looking to stem further action, the Myanmar labor minister this month wrote
to the body with its strongest promise to wipe out forced labor.

''Myanmar would take into consideration appropriate measures, including
administrative, executive and legislative measures, to ensure the prevention
of such occurrences in the future,'' said Maj. Gen. Tin Ngwe in his letter to
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

A report on last month's ILO mission to Myanmar showed government officials
were more open and cooperative than previously although noncommittal about
action to stop forced labor and generally still maintaining the problem 
didn't exist.