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The full report of the debate is on the following link
(scroll down to 4th report of the Selection Committee)


Mr. SAMET (Government delegate, United States) ? We are here to consider a 
most serious matter, that is, whether we
will stand with the people of Burma who are suffering greatly or whether we 
will turn away. The proposal before the
Conference is that drafted by the able Chairperson of the Selection 
Committee, Minister Alfaro Mijangos of Guatemala. It is,
as has been said, a compromise. It gives the Burmese regime five more 
months to bring about full compliance with its obligation
to stop subjecting the Burmese people to forced labour.

Frankly, my Government saw no reason to delay our action for even one more 
day, let alone five months, but we have
accepted to move forward on the basis of the consensus proposal now before 
the Conference.

The arguments presented against the proposal are essentially that it is too 
harsh or too hasty. For our part, we think the
proposal is neither. If we want to consider what is harsh, what is extreme, 
let us remind ourselves of what the report of our
Commission of Inquiry tells us, and let us also remind ourselves that our 
Commissioners are persons who work with the
greatest care and deliberation. They are the former Chief Justice of India, 
the former Chief Justice of Barbados, and a
distinguished jurist and public official from Australia. And here is what 
they concluded: ?All the information and evidence before
the Commission shows utter disregard by the authorities for the safety and 
health as well as the basic needs of the people
performing forced or compulsory labour. Porters, including women, are often 
sent ahead in particularly dangerous situations as
in suspected minefields, and many are killed or injured this way ? Forced 
labourers, including those sick or injured, are
frequently beaten or otherwise physically abused by soldiers, resulting in 
serious injuries; some are killed, and women
performing compulsory labour are raped or otherwise sexually abused by 
soldiers.? Harsh, indeed, Mr. President.

Or let us consider the argument that we are being hasty. On the contrary, 
the action before this Conference comes after a very,
very long time, and after the repeated rejection by the Burmese regime of 
the validity of this Organization?s concerns expressed
over literally decades to the Committee of Experts, the Committee on the 
Application of Standards and the Committee on
Freedom of Association. A rejection repeated as recently as last Friday, 
when the Burmese representative again denounced the
proposal presented by Chairperson Alfaro Mijangos, and denounced the 
Selection Committee for approving it. We are here
today two years after the report of the Commission of Inquiry which 
recommended that forced labour in Burma be immediately
stopped. We are here after two subsequent Reports by the Director-General, 
one in May 1999, and one in February of this
year, that forced labour has not been stopped. We are here a year after the 
emergency resolution passed by last year?s
Conference, and we are here because the Governing Body in March determined, 
after the most thorough consideration, to
recommend action under article 33 of the Constitution.

Again let us recall what the Commission of Inquiry said and consider 
whether they would accuse us of haste, and I quote again:
?This report reveals a saga of untold misery and suffering, oppression and 
exploitation of large sections of the population
inhabiting Myanmar by the Government, military and other public officers. 
It is a story of gross denial of human rights to which
the people of Myanmar have been subjected particularly since 1988 and from 
which they find no escape except fleeing from
the country. The Government, the military and the administration seem 
oblivious to the human rights of the people and are
trampling upon them with impunity. Their actions gravely offend human dignity.?

No, we have not acted hastily. Perhaps the record will show we have acted, 
if anything, too slowly.

Let us also consider the arguments that we are being unreasonable, unfair 
or punitive, and that dialogue is far more likely to
yield results.

We would submit that it is the Burmese regime which has been unreasonable, 
unresponsive, punitive and, indeed, contemptuous
not only of the needs of their own people but also of every effort made by 
this Organization over more than a decade to ask
them, plead with them and, finally, to demand that they simply stop using 
forced labour.

As for the alleged new-found interest in dialogue, unfortunately we think 
the record hardly shows the change of attitude that
some suggest.

The report of the technical team before the Conference shows only that all 
four senior Burmese officials denied the existence of
forced labour in Burma ? denied it. They only seem to disagree as to 
whether there ever might have been forced labour in
Burma. And anyone who sat through the Selection Committee debate could 
quite easily hear that there is no dialogue, only
more denial.

Finally, as to those who would say that our action will not be effective in 
stopping forced labour in Burma, they might well be
correct, although they are surely wrong that we will get better results 
from doing less. And it most clearly remains the fact that
the ability to stop forced labour is with the Burmese military, where it 
has always been.

The question before us is what is our moral or political and our legal 
responsibility, given the human rights crisis reported to us
by the Commission of Inquiry? We must be as clear and as steady as our 
Commissioners. We must uphold their work. We
must uphold their courage. We must uphold the Constitution of this 
Organization. We must uphold our basic obligations to each
other. To do any less, to look away, to avert our gaze would be to break 
faith with all that we are and hope to be. We dare
not. Now is the moment to stand with the Burmese people and not with those 
who oppress them.

I pray and I trust that we will do what we know to be just for the Burmese 
people, and that we will approve this resolution.