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PART 1, TEXT OF ILC SPECIAL SITTING



1LC SPECIAL SITTING ON BURMA PART 1

Special sitting concerning the application by Myanmar of the Forced Labour 
Convention, 1930 (No. 29), in application of the resolution adopted by the 
International Labour Conference at its 88th (2000) Session International 
Labour Conference

Provisional Record 19 PART THREE Eighty-ninth Session, Geneva, 2001

A. RECORD OF THE DISCUSSION IN THE COMMITTEE ON THE APPLICATION OF 
STANDARDS, 11 JUNE, 2001

THE CHAIRPERSON recalled that the item which was being discussed at the 
present sitting of the Committee had been placed on the Committee's agenda 
pursuant to paragraph 1( a) of the resolution adopted by the Conference at 
its 88th Session, under article 33 of the ILO Constitution, with a view to 
the adoption of measures to ensure compliance with the recommendations of 
the Commission of Inquiry established to examine the observation of the 
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) in Myanmar. The resolution of the 
Conference stated that: "The question of the implementation of the 
Commission of Inquiry's recommendations and of the application of 
Convention No. 29 by Myanmar should be discussed at future sessions of the 
International Labour Conference at a sitting of the Committee on the 
Application of Standards specially set aside for the purpose, so long as 
this Member has not been shown to have fulfilled its obligations." For the 
examination of this case, the Committee had before it the following documents:

(1) the observation of the Committee of Experts on the application of 
Convention No.  29 by Myanmar; and

(2) on the one hand, document D. 6 (containing the document GB. 280/ 6, GB. 
280/ 6 (Add. 1) and GB. 280/ 6 (Add. 2) (March 2001) regarding item 6 of 
the agenda of the Governing Body on "Developments concerning the question 
of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour 
Convention, 1930 (No. 29)" and the provisional minutes of the discussion of 
this item), and, on the other hand, document D. 7 (Arrangements for an 
objective assessment of the situation of forced labour following measures 
taken by the Myanmar Government), which had been submitted to the Committee 
at the request of the Governing Body. Annex 5 to document D. 7 contained 
the text of an understanding for an objective assessment to be carried out 
on how the legislative, executive and Administrative measures reported by 
the Government were being applied in practice. This understanding made 
direct reference to the observation of the Committee of Experts.

A GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE OF MYANMAR welcomed the general feeling that 
the situation surrounding the issue of Myanmar had radically changed and 
that the atmosphere in the Conference Committee had also changed a great 
deal from the atmosphere that had prevailed at the 88th Session of the 
Conference in June 2000 and the 279th Session of the Governing Body in 
November 2000. There was now much optimism and positive outlook shared by 
most of the member States and delegates on the Committee. This atmosphere 
of optimism and the positive outlook had been generated by a very important 
development, namely the agreement between the Government of Myanmar and the 
ILO on the "modalities of the objective assessment", which was the outcome 
of the visit of the ILO Team to Myanmar the previous month.

He reviewed the process that had now culminated in the agreement on the 
modalities of the objective assessment. The Government of Myanmar had 
already put in place a comprehensive framework of legislative, executive 
and Administrative measures to ensure that there was no practice of forced 
labour in Myanmar. In addition, the Order supplementing Order No. 1/ 99, 
issued on 27 October 2000, clearly stipulated that the use of forced labour 
was illegal and that it was an offence under the existing laws of the Union 
of Myanmar. It directed responsible persons, including members of the local 
authorities, members of the armed forces, members of the police force and 
other public personnel, down to the village and ward levels, not to 
requisition forced labour or involuntary service. It also clearly set out 
the legal consequences for breach of the Order by explicitly stipulating 
that any person, including local authorities, members of the armed forces, 
members of the police force and other public personnel would have action 
taken against them under Section 374 of the Penal Code in consequence of 
such a breach. Moreover, Secretary (1) of the State Peace and Development 
Council had himself issued a directive on 1 November 2000 to all chairmen 
of the State and Divisional Peace and Development Councils in all regions 
of the country prohibiting the requisitioning of forced labour. National 
implementation measures and national monitoring activities were also being 
continued.

He emphasized that, at the 279th Session of the Governing Body, most member 
States and delegates had recognized the concrete measures taken by the 
Government of Myanmar. However, the issue of "objective assessment" had 
turned out to be a sticking point. The Government of Myanmar had made a 
generous offer to receive an ILO Team, either based in Bangkok or in 
Geneva. At that time, there had been differences of opinion on this issue. 
He said that what had happened at the 279th Session of the Governing Body 
had been most unfortunate. Nevertheless, he reaffirmed his belief in the 
process of engagement, dialogue and cooperation as a means of resolving the 
issues. For that reason, Myanmar had entered into an engagement with the 
Director-General of the ILO. On 22  March 2001, the Deputy Minister for 
Foreign Affairs had called on the Director-General of the ILO, on his way 
to attend an international conference in South America, and had held 
exploratory discussions on the modalities of the objective assessment. In 
the course of the discussion, the Deputy Minister had informed the 
Director-General of the ILO that the Government of Myanmar had designated 
the Permanent Representative of the Union of Myanmar in Geneva as a contact 
point to conduct discussions with the Director-General of the ILO on the 
modalities of the objective assessment. Accordingly, the Government 
representative had himself conducted wide-ranging discussions with the 
Director-General of the ILO on this matter. Subsequently, on 4 June 2001, 
the Minister at the Office of the Prime Minister, attending the 89th 
Session of the Conference, had called on the Director-General of the ILO 
and had held fruitful discussions on matters of mutual interest.

He recalled that document D. 7 provided full information concerning the 
visit of the ILO Team the previous month. The ILO Team had visited Myanmar 
from 17 to 19 May 2001. The outcome of the visit had been the important 
agreement between the Government of Myanmar and the ILO on the "modalities 
of the objective assessment". Under the agreement, a High-Level Team, led 
by an internationally respected person, would go to Myanmar on an objective 
assessment mission in September 2001.

He expressed the belief that the measures taken by the Government of 
Myanmar were concrete, comprehensive and effective. He recalled that the 
ILO considered that there ought to be an objective assessment of these 
measures to lend them international credibility and confidence. He 
therefore reaffirmed that the Government of Myanmar had not only put in 
place a comprehensive framework of legislative, executive and 
administrative measures, but had also accepted to receive the objective 
assessment by a High-Level Team. Things were therefore moving forward in 
the right direction.

He warned, however, that the value of the application of sanctions was 
highly questionable. He expressed the belief that the best sanctions were 
those that were never used and never carried out. Sanctions were like 
nuclear weapons. Their value lay in their deterrent effect, not in their 
actual use. As a matter of principle, his Government opposed the 
application of sanctions against a member State as a means of resolving an 
issue. Now that there was an agreement between the Government of Myanmar 
and the ILO on the modalities of the objective assessment, the difficulties 
to which he had referred had been overcome.

He urged the Committee not to look back on the past, but to look to the 
future and move forward to resolve the issue step by step. Most member 
States and delegates had recognized that the Government had the genuine 
political will and commitment to resolve the issue of the alleged use of 
forced labour. No one could deny that the agreement on the modalities of 
the objective assessment constituted a significant step. Indeed, it was a 
breakthrough. In view of this very important positive development, he urged 
the Committee to recommend to the 282nd Session of the Governing Body that 
it should review the measures taken under article 33 of the ILO 
Constitution in the light of the outcome of the visit of the High-Level 
Team, with a view to removing those measures.

THE WORKER MEMBERS stated that the situation of forced labour in Myanmar 
concerned so many people that the Committee could discuss this case for 
three days, or even a week. It was essential that this case, as with all 
other cases, be seriously reviewed, according to the procedures of the 
Conference Committee. They noted that, as with the discussion on individual 
cases, it was important to know the position of the Employer members, even 
though they were convinced that in this particular situation they shared 
the same views.

They deplored the fact that the case of Myanmar was once again before the 
Committee. Unfortunately, this case already had a long history, which had, 
for the first time in the existence of the ILO, required the use of a 
special procedure (article 33 of the ILO Constitution). They strongly 
regretted this situation, which was due to the persistence of unacceptable 
forced labour practices in Myanmar. They stated that they would continue to 
place this matter on the agenda of the ILO supervisory bodies as long as 
the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry were not implemented. 
With regard to the Commission of Inquiry, the Government of Myanmar was 
required to ensure that: (a) the legislation was brought into conformity 
with the provisions of Convention No. 29; (b) that practice was brought 
into line with the provisions of Convention No. 29, in other words, that no 
compulsory or forced labour could be imposed by the authorities; and 
(c)  that sanctions were provided for and applied to those found guilty of 
violating the prohibition against forced labour.

They added that they did not intend to review the history of this case, but 
recalled the serious, persistent and systematic violations of Convention 
No. 29 on forced labour which existed in Myanmar. They stated that they had 
not invented these violations and recalled that there was abundant proof of 
these practices.

The Worker members added that the Committee was once again discussing this 
very serious case of forced labour after a two-year hiatus, during which 
time the severity of the situation and the chronic nature of the 
Government's lack of cooperation and compliance had driven the case to 
unprecedented levels of the ILO's supervisory machinery. The Committee was 
acting on the resolution adopted under article 33 of the ILO's Constitution 
at last year's Conference that charged it with keeping the spotlight on the 
practice of forced labour in Burma. The Committee's special session today 
was an essential part of the ILO's efforts to compel the Government to 
fulfil its treaty obligations under Convention No. 29 and to end the 
suffering of the tens of thousands of victims of forced labour. The Worker 
members considered this to be a very important responsibility.

The Worker members emphasized at the outset that, notwithstanding the 
comments made by the Government representative, only a few months ago the 
Government had continued to deny the existence of forced labour in the 
country. In its 9 March 2001 statement to the United Nations Commission on 
Human Rights, the representative of the Permanent Mission of Myanmar in 
Geneva had stated that "Myanmar nationals believe that the contribution of 
labour is both meritorious and conducive to mental and physical wellbeing. 
Accordingly, the local populace contribute labour in village community 
works (...) The populace, who are contributing labour, look fresh and happy 
with full of mirth and laughter and in festive mood. They do not at all 
look unhappy; nor show signs of being forced to work against their will." 
The Worker members noted that such statements by the Government had been a 
staple in past Committee discussions. Further, the "conciliatory" tone 
taken by the Government representative did not in any way concede that a 
problem existed or that one had ever existed.

Not surprisingly, the Committee of Experts had structured its rather 
extensive comments this year in accordance with the three recommendations 
made by the Commission of Inquiry. The first section of the Committee of 
Experts' comments focused on the legal aspects of ending forced labour by 
addressing the issue of amending the relevant legislation. The second 
section focused on the measures taken, or rather not taken, to end the 
continuing practice of forced labour by the regime, as well as the 
available information on the actual practice. Finally, the report contained 
a third section on enforcement, in order to determine whether any actions 
had been taken to hold anyone accountable for using forced labour under the 
Penal Code, or in other words whether anyone had been punished. The answer 
to those questions, according to the Committee of Experts, was a resounding 
"no."

The Worker members emphasized that all three aspects of the Commission of 
Inquiry's recommendations must be implemented in full before any 
consideration could be given to ending the measures adopted by last year's 
Conference under article 33 of the ILO Constitution. This meant that the 
legal framework providing for the widespread use of forced labour had to be 
eradicated, the practice itself had to be demonstrably eliminated and all 
those found to be responsible for using forced labour had to be punished. 
Until such actions were taken, the regime had to be made to understand that 
the ILO would remain vigilant.

The ILO had demonstrated its willingness to assist the regime in any and 
every way possible to implement fully the recommendations of the Commission 
of Inquiry. But the bottom line had to be that the only avenue available to 
the regime, to reduce international pressure and ostracism, was the 
complete end of the system of forced labour, both in law and in practice, 
and the punishment of those responsible. The comments of the Committee of 
Experts demonstrated that there was still a long way to go.

In the first section of its report, the Committee of Experts once again 
reviewed the legal steps taken by the regime, namely the Order issued to 
disregard those provisions of the Village Act and the Towns Act that 
provided for forced labour. The Committee of Experts' view of this Order 
remained quite clear. Paragraph 4 of the report indicated that these orders 
"still reserved the exercise of powers under the relevant provisions of the 
Village Act and the Towns Act, which remain incompatible with the 
requirements of the Convention". Paragraph 6 of the report then concluded 
that the amendment of these two Acts sought by the Commission of Inquiry 
and promised by the Government for many years had not been made.

Furthermore, the first part of the second section of the Committee of 
Experts' report expressed the repeated concern that those most responsible 
for the use of forced labour, namely the military, did not appear to be 
affected by this Order. The Worker members had heard the Government 
representative's statement that the military authorities no longer made use 
of forced labour. The fact was, however, that the military remained somehow 
above the law. This had of course been the reality in the country for many 
decades, and until this situation was remedied, forced labour would continue.

The report devoted a few short, but extremely important paragraphs to the 
information available on actual practice. Paragraph 20 recalled that the 
documentary appendices contained in the ICFTU report of last November, 
representing over 1,000 pages drawn from 20 different sources, included 
reports, interviews of victims, over 300 forced labour orders, photographs, 
video recordings and other material. The report noted that the 
overwhelmingly large proportion of the documents concerned the period from 
June to November 2000. In other words, it concerned the period after the 
article 33 measures had been adopted at last year's Conference, leading to 
the November Governing Body session, when the regime and its supporters had 
lobbied extensively to avoid having the article 33 measures take effect. 
The report emphasized that an essential part of the ICFTU submission 
consisted of hundreds of "forced labour orders", issued mainly by the army, 
which were similar in kind, shape and content to the orders examined by the 
Commission of Inquiry and found to be authentic.

The ICFTU had issued a second report for the March 2001 Governing Body, 
which consisted of another 300 pages of similar documentation demonstrating 
that, without question, the practice continued. As reported in paragraph 66 
of document D. 6, the ICFTU report indicated that the authorities had used 
a number of methods to cover up the use of forced labour. These had 
included "issuing orders for villagers to attend meetings at the army camp, 
where they were requisitioned for forced labour, rather than issuing 
explicit orders for forced labour; issuing undated, unsigned and unstamped 
orders; demanding that written orders were returned to the issuing army 
personnel; using civilian authorities to requisition labour on behalf of 
the military; and arbitrarily arresting young, healthy persons, who after a 
few days in prison would be sent to work as porters for the military, 
dressed in army uniforms (...)".

There were other credible reports, such as a report to be issued by Amnesty 
International in two days, that included interviews with victims of forced 
labour this year. The Worker members pointed out that, when the time was 
taken to independently investigate whether or not forced labour was 
continuing, especially near ethnic border areas, it was clear that new 
evidence, conclusive evidence, tragic evidence continued to flow out of the 
country. They reminded the Committee that, according to the Commission of 
Inquiry and the Committee of Experts, the practices in question 
particularly affected farmers and the most impoverished, as well as the 
non-Burmese  ethnic communities. It was a practice that was especially 
cruel and inhuman to women, who had found themselves the victims of rape 
and other barbarities, and to children. People, including women and 
children, were being used to clear minefields for the military in its 
continuing military action against some of the ethnic communities.

Many speakers had reminded the Committee during its general discussion that 
its role was to go beyond the legal analysis of the Committee of Experts 
and to bring a dimension of reality to the situations discussed, and this 
was the reality in Burma today, a reality which had existed tragically for 
decades, a reality so pervasive that it affected virtually every community 
and every family in certain parts of the country. It was a reality which 
persisted despite the best efforts of the ILO to compel change after many 
years.

With regard to the Director-General's communications to the ILO's 
constituent groups and the responses given to his request (contained in 
document D. 6), the Worker members expressed their extreme disappointment 
over the lack of action taken by member States. Citing the example of the 
Japanese Government, they stated that there were even some governments that 
had responded to the Director-General's request by doing precisely the 
opposite, by enhancing their relationship with the military regime through 
the resumption of development assistance. The Worker members found such 
action to be not only unfortunate, but deplorable. They noted the 
statements made in defence of such actions that these governments saw the 
ILO, figuratively, as the north wind, while projecting themselves as the 
sun, arguing that both the north wind and the sun were needed to produce 
the changes that were desired by everyone. It was clear to the Worker 
members that, from the point of view of the perpetrators of forced labour, 
these governments were indeed the warm sun. However, they stressed that, 
from the point of view of the tens of thousands of victims of forced 
labour, from the point of view of the citizens of the country, these 
governments were the northern wind and it was the ILO that, to its credit, 
was the warm sun.

Some governments, including the United States, had given the 
Director-General a good explanation for their lack of action. Shortly 
before the Governing Body met in November 2000, the regime had begun a 
conversation with Ms. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been under virtual 
house arrest for almost a decade and remained so today. It was the view of 
the Worker members that the beginning of these secret talks was no 
coincidence, and that the actions of the ILO, especially the adoption of 
measures under article 33, had convinced the regime to do what it had 
steadfastly refused to do for over a decade. The ILO deserved credit for this.

Citing the example of the United States, the Worker members expressed their 
conviction that in late 2000, the United States Government had been poised 
to impose a ban on imports from Burma in response to the Director-General's 
call. The emergence of the secret talks had delayed the imposition of such 
a ban. There was, however, bipartisan legislation introduced in the United 
States Senate to ban all imports from Burma to the United States. The 
legislation specifically referred to the measures called for by the ILO. In 
addition, there was a coalition of groups in the United States that were 
communicating with major retail companies requesting them not to allow any 
apparel items produced in the country to be sold in their stores. The ILO's 
actions were cited in the letters to these companies. Thus far, nine 
companies, including a number of the larger and most well-known retailers 
in the United States, had given a public commitment, or strengthened a 
previous commitment, to keep such products out of their stores. The same 
could not be said, unfortunately, about many extraction industry companies 
which had been entrenched in the country for many years. Recently, however, 
resolutions had been introduced at shareholder meetings supporting 
disinvestment because of the widespread practice of forced labour. One of 
these resolutions had been supported by 22 per cent of the shareholders, a 
significantly large and apparently growing percentage for this type of 
resolution.

The Worker members noted that all those present, except perhaps the 
representatives of the military regime themselves, wanted talks to succeed, 
producing a transition back to civilian rule and the rule of law. But these 
talks had been going on for nine months with no apparent result. They 
surely could not yet be described as reconciliation talks given the fact 
that, as the Worker members had stated previously, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 
remained under virtual house arrest. She still could not travel, nor could 
she consult with large groups of her supporters. Accordingly, the Worker 
members questioned how long member States were willing to wait, using the 
secret talks as a pretext for inaction, before responding to the 
Director-General's call. Would one year of no reported progress be 
sufficient, a period which would elapse before the November 2001 Governing 
Body meeting? When would a "decent interval" to allow these discussions to 
produce results become "indecent" and merely a pretext to avoid action 
under any circumstances? It remained clear to the Worker members that 
pressure had to be maintained on the regime as, in their view, any 
perceived weakening of international pressure would doom the talks to failure.

The Worker members reminded governments that the issue before the 
Committee, as it had been for almost 40 years, was not political 
normalization, but the eradication of forced labour inside Burma. This was 
the sole measure that the Committee must use to assess the effectiveness of 
steps being taken by the regime, and as long as there was evidence of 
forced labour, then the measures taken under article 33 must continue. To 
weaken or eliminate those measures prematurely might do irreparable damage 
to the ILO at a time when the ability of the ILO to enforce its own 
standards was being called into question.

The Worker members noted that, in a recent development, the regime had 
agreed to accept a High-Level Team into the country in September 2001 to 
conduct an assessment of the extent to which forced labour had been 
eliminated. The Worker members viewed this mission as a potentially 
positive, if somewhat flawed, first step and hoped that it would develop 
into an effective and if necessary Long-term programme to eliminate the 
widespread use of forced labour in that country once and for all. But this 
was only a first step and, in reality, only a baby step, not a radical 
change, as claimed by the Government. They recalled the (unfounded) rumours 
at last year's Conference and at the November Governing Body meeting that, 
in order to avoid the measures under article 33 coming into effect, the 
regime was willing to accept a permanent ILO presence inside the country to 
monitor the elimination of forced labour. Now was not the time to debate 
the pros and cons of such an idea, but the Worker members emphasized that 
what was being proposed was not even close to what had been discussed last 
year.

The Worker members affirmed that they would monitor closely the results of 
the mission, and hoped it would bring positive results. But clearly this 
latest gesture by the regime was only a very small beginning. And there was 
already evidence emerging of the regime instructing people to deny the 
existence of forced labour. The Worker members had seen one report that 
just last week an SPDC township chairman in Mon State had called a 
gathering of villagers to inform them that foreigners might soon be coming 
to the area to ask questions about forced labour. They had reportedly been 
instructed to deny any forced labour and to deny paying the military to 
avoid forced labour. Such evidence would, of course, be turned over to the ILO.

The effectiveness of the ILO regarding this longstanding case of forced 
labour must not be measured in baby steps. It must only be measured by its 
ability, our ability, to compel this member State to do what it clearly had 
never wanted to do - that is, to live up to its treaty obligations under 
Convention No. 29. While some governments seemed content with gestures by 
the regime even at this late date, the tragic reality was that, even now, 
thousands of men, women and children were poised to become the latest 
victims of the most unspeakable forms of forced labour. This was the 
reality that the Committee had to confront.

In light of the preceding developments, the Worker members indicated that 
the problem of forced labour in Burma was complex, due to its very nature, 
its diversity, its scope and size. The situation was one which weighed 
heavily on the entire population of Burma/Myanmar. It had had terrible 
consequences for the country's inhabitants, including on their social life. 
It was detrimental to employment, as it kept people from being able to have 
"normal" jobs,  particularly due to the problem of mass requisitioning by 
the authorities. The situation was consequently disastrous for the economy 
of the entire country.

The violations of Convention No. 29 were widespread, systematic and 
institutionalized, in national legislation and in practice. The military 
and civil authorities systematically resorted to forced labour for a series 
of tasks and services. Thousands of people were requisitioned to carry out 
this work. From a legal standpoint, most of the violations of the 
Convention were based on the Towns Act and the Villages Act. As previously 
indicated, forced or compulsory labour was imposed by the authorities at 
all levels and especially by the military.

The Worker members considered that, after having described the problem, it 
was appropriate to work towards finding possible solutions. To this end, 
they noted the promises made by the Government including the declarations 
made by the Government representative, according to which progress had been 
achieved and improvements made. They wished to remind the Government that 
these initiatives and changes needed to be evaluated by the ILO. It was 
necessary for the ILO to be able to evaluate the practical implementation 
and real impact of the measures taken by the Government in an objective and 
impartial manner.

The Worker members considered that it was essential for the ILO to be able 
to send missions to the field regularly in order to guarantee an objective 
evaluation of the situation. Once this first condition had been met, the 
mission Team would need to be composed of individuals of a high level, with 
outstanding expertise in the subject matter and familiar with the region 
and the situation of the country. One of the members of the Commission of 
Inquiry should take part in the mission.

The Worker members stressed that, as Burma was a large country, it was not 
possible to visit all regions in a short period of time, particularly if 
there were not many members of the mission Team. It would be desirable for 
the Team to be large enough to distribute the work geographically and 
essential for the mission members to have contacts, not only in the country 
itself, but also in neighbouring regions. They emphasized that, owing to 
its existence in many forms, the problem of forced labour was widespread 
and that the mission must be able to examine all the forms of forced labour 
which existed, which was another reason to send a large mission.

They considered that, in order to ensure an effective outcome, the members 
of the mission should have access to all information, regions and persons 
they deemed it necessary to consult, a requirement which would probably be 
the greatest problem the mission faced. They asked that every possible 
measure be implemented in order to avoid, to the greatest extent possible, 
having any limitations imposed on the mission's investigations. The subject 
of security must not be a pretext for restricting the mission's access to 
regions in conflict. It was important that interpreters be placed at the 
disposal of the mission, not only for translation from Burmese, but also 
from the languages of the ethnic minorities. It was the ethnic minorities 
who were the primary victims of forced labour in the country. In their 
view, the most important condition concerned the protection of witnesses. 
It was essential to guarantee effective protection for persons possessing 
essential information and whom the mission might contact. This protection 
must be guaranteed not only at the time of the contact, but also and even 
more importantly, after contact. Creative means might be required to find 
the means to guarantee this protection. Finally, careful thought should be 
given to deciding the best time for the mission to take place, taking the 
climatic conditions into account.

The Government of Burma wished to convince the Conference Committee of its 
willingness to improve the present situation with a view to abolishing 
forced labour. The Worker members expressed the hope that, in accepting a 
mission with the mandate described above, the Government would prove its 
political will. In any event, such a mission would not mark the end of this 
case. It represented only the beginning of a process, one step towards the 
improvement of the forced labour situation in the country. The Worker 
members recalled a suggestion made by a colleague during the general 
discussion to the effect that the Committee on the Application of Standards 
was a patient committee. They therefore undertook to follow the development 
of this particular case closely and to regularly request that the 
Government take measures until such time as it actually took action. The 
Committee would insist on this point until the recommendations of the 
Commission of Inquiry had been implemented and forced labour in Burma 
abolished. The Worker members informed the Committee that they would urge 
that missions be sent to Burma at different times of the year until this 
objective had been achieved.

The Worker members took careful note of document D. 9, Memorandum on the 
understanding between the Myanmar Government and the ILO on the modalities 
of objective assessment on Myanmar's observance of ILO Convention No. 29 
(prohibiting forced labour), and of the statement made by the Government 
representative. They disagreed with the conclusions contained in that 
document. The Worker members insisted that the ILO continue on the same 
path and that its objective remain the same, namely the implementation of 
the recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry. The situation must be 
evaluated by the ILO in a permanent objective manner. Only on the basis of 
such objective evaluation could the ILO draw conclusions in respect of this 
case.

THE EMPLOYER MEMBERS thanked the Government representative of Myanmar for 
his statement. They noted that, although he had predicted a certain 
optimism, it remained to be seen whether this prediction was premature.

The Employer members considered this to be an unusual case, not because of 
the circumstances involved or the interest it generated. Rather, it was 
unusual due to the serious nature of the violations of the most ratified of 
all Conventions, the length of time the situation of grave violations of 
human rights had persisted, and the stubborn refusal of the Government over 
many years to comply with its international obligations under Convention 
No. 29. This case had been examined by the ILO supervisory system over a 
period of years. The Employer members noted that the ILO standards system 
was rightly considered the most efficient in the United Nations system, 
pointing out that this two-tiered system had been introduced 75 years ago 
this year. As always, the Committee's deliberations were based upon the 
report of the Committee of Experts. The report once again contained a 
precise description of the situation in Myanmar and its evolution over the 
past three years. They noted that the Committee of Experts had examined 
this case almost every year since 1991 and time and again had reported on 
multiple and serious violations of the Convention. Similarly, the 
Conference Committee had examined this issue four times since 1992 and had 
repeatedly expressed its concern at the seriousness of the violations of 
the Convention in special paragraphs entitled "continuous failure to 
implement" in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

The Employer members recalled that many people in Myanmar were forced to 
engage in forced labour and that this practice affected women, young people 
and older persons, who were required by local and state authorities, both 
military and civilian, to carry out forced labour. This forced labour 
included transporting materials for the armed forces, constructing and 
maintaining military camps, building roads and participating in industrial 
and agricultural projects. This was heavy labour which many people were 
forced to carry out. For many years, the Government had denied these 
violations of the Convention, referring inter alia to a tradition under 
which such labour was considered as community work and usual.

The Employer members noted that the July 1998 report of the Commission of 
Inquiry established by the ILO had found that this widespread practice of 
grave violations of the Convention was based mainly on the Towns Act and 
the Villages Act. Amendment of these Acts had long been called for and the 
Commission of Inquiry had asked that this be done by 1 May 1999. A 
government Order of 14 May 1999 had not made the requested changes. In 
parallel with amendment of the law, profound changes also needed to be made 
to the practice in the country through clear and specific (and not secret) 
orders to all the authorities, including the military. Finally, Section 374 
of the Penal Code needed to be strictly enforced. Although it provided for 
penalties for the imposition of forced labour, it was never applied in 
practice.

The Employer members recalled that the recommendations of the Commission of 
Inquiry had been taken up by the Governing Body and the Conference 
Committee and that both bodies had demanded repeatedly that the Government 
comply with them. In the absence of sufficient noticeable progress, last 
year's International Labour Conference, at the recommendation of the 
Governing Body, had adopted its resolution under article 33 of the ILO 
Constitution. The resolution demanded that Myanmar implement fully the 
recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. All ILO bodies and member 
States were to be informed and review their  Cooperation with Myanmar. The 
same applied to the United Nations and the specialized agencies. Further 
developments were to be discussed in the Conference Committee.

The measures mentioned in the resolution had come into effect on 30 
November 2000, after the Governing Body had determined that the measures 
taken or announced by the Government until that date had been insufficient. 
At its November 2000 session, the Governing Body had examined the 
Government's Order of 27 October 2000, supplementing the May 1999 Order to 
eliminate the use of forced labour. An ILO technical cooperation team had 
visited the country and recommended that this be supplemented with specific 
orders or directives. In its report this year, the Committee of Experts had 
called for a detailed list of such specific orders or directives. Only in 
this way could enforcement of the prohibition of forced labour be achieved 
in practice. There had then been an exchange of correspondence between the 
Director-General and the Myanmar  Government in which the Government had 
indicated its willingness to comply with the recommendations of the 
Commission of Inquiry. The Employer members referred to documents D. 6 and 
D. 7, which contained further details in this regard.

The Employer members indicated in the first place that over a period of 
years they had followed the case of Myanmar with concern. They stressed the 
seriousness of the issue of forced labour and added that there should be no 
doubt that the Employer members considered the observance of these 
fundamental principles to be crucial, and particularly the principles 
contained in Convention No. 29.

The Employer members recalled that, in November 2000, under the authority 
delegated to it by the International Labour Conference, the Governing Body 
had determined that the resolution under article 33 of the ILO Constitution 
should enter into force. At the same time, the Governing Body had requested 
the Director-General to continue his cooperation with the Government of 
Myanmar to promote the full implementation of the Commission of Inquiry's 
recommendations. The Employer members did not consider that article 33 was 
the only means to be adopted. They were also concerned to resolve the core 
of the problem which had given rise to the application of article 33 in 
order to put an end to forced labour. Moreover, they indicated that the 
contacts with the Government of Myanmar continued to demonstrate that the 
measures adopted by the Government should be verified and verifiable by the 
ILO, with a view to determining their implementation and the current 
situation in practice.

They recalled that a mission had visited Yangon from 17 to 19 March to 
discuss specific details regarding the High-Level Team to be sent. As a 
result, it had been agreed that the Team would visit the country in 
September, that its members would be designated by the Director-General on 
the basis of their qualifications, impartiality and knowledge of the 
region, that the Team would have discretion in establishing its programme 
as well as the full authority to act and move within the territory, with 
all procedural guarantees and, lastly, that the Team's report would be 
submitted to the Governing Body in November.

The Employer members also indicated that the Committee of Experts 
considered that the amendment to the Village and Towns Acts of 27 October 
2000 could form a basis for observance of the Convention. The Employer 
members considered that the necessary steps should be taken to ensure the 
elimination in practice of forced labour imposed by the authorities, 
particularly by the armed forces. They stressed that the Committee was 
dealing with fundamental human rights deriving from the fundamental 
Conventions ratified by Myanmar. They were convinced that both law and 
practice should be clear with regard to the prohibition of the exaction of 
forced labour by the authorities, including the armed forces.

They indicated that they had listened carefully to the statements of the 
representative of the Government of Myanmar and had taken into account the 
comments of the Worker members. They requested that the Government of 
Myanmar give the High-Level Team all the cooperation necessary to enable it 
to carry out its functions and verify the absence of forced labour in the 
country. The Governing Body should receive the new report in November to 
enable it to present the relevant recommendations to the next International 
Labour Conference. In conclusion, they stated that any progress made must 
be clearly demonstrable, that the Government must cooperate fully and the 
High-Level Team must be granted broad powers of verification.

They hoped that, in the future, they would be able to confirm that the 
situation which had given rise to the application of article 33 had been 
resolved.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF SWEDEN, speaking on behalf of the Member States of 
the European Union, the Central and Eastern European countries associated 
with the European Union, namely the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, 
Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the associated 
countries, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, as well as Croatia and Norway, said 
that, in view of the deep concern about the situation with regard to forced 
labour in Myanmar, the European Union supported the resolution adopted by 
the Conference in June 2000 which had led to the implementation of measures 
in November 2000 under article 33 of the ILO Constitution. He recalled 
that, four years ago, the Commission of Inquiry on forced labour in Burma/ 
Myanmar had made a series of clear recommendations to the Government on the 
issue, namely that the legislation should be brought into line with 
Convention No. 29, no more forced or compulsory labour should be imposed by 
the authorities in practice and that those enforcing forced labour should 
be brought to face criminal responsibility. The Government was therefore 
under an obligation to implement these recommendations fully.

On many occasions, the European Union had made it clear that, in order for 
the Conference to lift the measures taken under article 33 of the ILO 
Constitution, it needed to be assured that forced labour was completely 
eliminated. Only the ILO could make such an assessment. The European Union 
had urged the Government to resume its cooperation with the ILO and to 
allow a full-time ILO presence in the country with a view to verifying 
whether the Government had put an end to the practice of forced labour and 
enabling the ILO to provide technical assistance to that end. In that 
context, he welcomed the decision taken by the Government to resume 
cooperation with the ILO and noted the agreement on the modalities for an 
objective assessment of the practical implementation of the recommendations 
of the Commission of Inquiry. The High-Level Team should be allowed 
complete freedom of movement throughout the entire territory and he trusted 
that the authorities would provide any security measures necessary. The 
Team should also have full freedom of access to speak to anybody it wished 
to, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders. The Team should 
decide upon the timing of its visits and on its programme. Finally, the 
Director-General should have complete freedom to decide on the composition 
of the High-Level Team. He noted the commitments entered into by the 
Government in that regard.

Finally, he emphasized that a three-week mission was not enough. Further 
steps needed to be taken. He expressed the belief that a full-time ILO 
presence in the country was necessary to assist the Government to implement 
the  Legislative measures it had adopted and verify their implementation. 
He looked forward to receiving the report of the High-Level Team following 
its mission in September with a view to considering its implications for 
further action at the Governing Body in November 2001.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF AUSTRALIA, speaking on behalf of the members of 
the Asia-Pacific Group, noted with interest the report to the Committee on 
the developments since the last session of the Governing Body. The 
Asia-Pacific Group welcomed the decision of the Government to receive a 
High-Level Team appointed by the Director-General to carry out an objective 
assessment in September, for a period of up to three weeks, on the issue of 
forced labour. This was a very positive development. He particularly 
welcomed the fact that the Government had agreed that the ILO Team should 
have complete discretion to establish and implement its programme of work, 
meetings and visits. He expressed appreciation for the continuing efforts 
of all concerned, including the Director-General and the staff of the 
Office. He called upon the Government to continue to extend every 
cooperation to the ILO and the High-Level Team when it visited the country 
in September. He urged the members of the Conference to await the report of 
the Team's visit and its consideration by the Governing Body in November 
before deciding upon any further action.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF MALAYSIA, speaking on behalf of the ASEAN member 
States of the ILO, thanked the Director-General for his readiness to 
cooperate with the Government of Myanmar. He noted with appreciation the 
visit by the  representative of the Director-General and his team to 
Myanmar in May 2001 and the report of the mission, and particularly the 
agreement reached between the ILO and the Government on the modalities of 
an objective assessment of its observance of Convention No. 29. He 
expressed encouragement at the assurance given by the Government that it 
would implement the comprehensive framework of legislative, executive and 
administrative measures that it had put in place and the follow-up 
implementation measures and national monitoring activities, as well as the 
cooperation between the Government and the ILO. He recognized the political 
will of the Government to resolve the issue and to receive an ILO High 
Level Team in September 2001 to carry out the objective assessment.

He concluded that the 282nd Session of the Governing Body in November 2001 
should review the measures taken by the ILO under article 33 of the 
Constitution in the light of the outcome of the objective assessment, with 
a view to removing those measures. He also called upon the Government and 
the ILO to continue cooperation until the issue was completely resolved.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES recalled that the previous year 
the Conference had adopted the measures recommended by the Governing Body 
under article 33 of the Constitution to secure compliance with the 
recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. The evidence of the 
continuing use of forced labour in its most brutal forms was so compelling 
that it had been recognized that to do otherwise would be to fail in the 
responsibility of the Conference towards the workers of the country and to 
the historic mission of the ILO. Her delegation had stated on that occasion 
that "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". At the Governing Body in 
November 2000, it had been decided that there was no reason to delay the 
implementation of the resolution, notwithstanding the fact that the 
authorities had taken a number of administrative measures following a 
last-minute ILO technical cooperation mission to the country in October 
2000. The Committee of Experts had thoroughly analysed the measures taken, 
as well as extensive information from other sources on the actual situation 
in the country.

The Committee of Experts had concluded that the Government still needed to: 
amend the relevant legislative texts; ensure that in actual practice no 
more forced or compulsory labour was imposed by the authorities, and 
particularly the military; and strictly enforce penalties for the exaction 
of forced or compulsory labour. Additional evidence of the continuing use 
of forced labour on a large scale had been presented to the Governing Body 
in March 2001. This included reports of efforts by military and civilian 
authorities at every level to hide the extent and nature of forced labour, 
to weaken or nullify the effects of any orders preventing forced labour 
which might have been issued by superior levels, and to counter the 
resolution adopted by the Conference through campaigns of disinformation 
and deception.

She recalled that, despite its rejection of the Conference resolution, the 
Director-General had continued to extend cooperation to the Government in 
relation to Convention No. 29, as requested by the Conference and the 
Governing Body. She commended him for those efforts. The objective of the 
ILO was not to exact punishment, but to help the Government eliminate a 
practice which all the members of the ILO, whether or not they had ratified 
Convention No. 29, had agreed must be eliminated. As a result of the 
Director-General's efforts, the Government had now agreed to receive a 
High-Level Team for up to three weeks in September 2001 to carry out an 
objective assessment of the situation regarding forced labour. While 
welcoming the agreement, she called for realism about what the High-Level 
Team could accomplish in so short a period. The understanding reached with 
the Government in May 2001 was a step in the right direction. But the 
usefulness and effectiveness of the visit of the High-Level Team would 
depend on the extent to which the Government fulfilled the commitments that 
it had undertaken. It had agreed to accord the High-Level Team its 
full  cooperation. Such cooperation must include, at a minimum, the right 
of the Team to meet with whomsoever it wished, in closed and confidential 
session if it so desired, and the right of all persons who wished to meet 
with the Team to do so without fear of retaliation against themselves or 
their families. Anything less would tend to cast doubt on the credibility 
of the Team's efforts, which would serve neither the interests of the 
country nor those of the ILO.

She noted that the Governing Body would listen attentively to the report of 
the High-Level Team in November 2001 and would also examine the report in 
the context of the full range of information available to the Governing 
Body from other sources. At that time, it would be decided what further 
action, if any, the ILO should take in pursuance of the objectives of the 
Conference resolution. Meanwhile, all the provisions of that resolution 
remained in effect and should continue to be implemented, including steps 
to ensure that the issue was discussed at the forthcoming session of the 
United Nations Economic and Social Council. Her Government would continue 
to review its relations with the country and urged others to do the same. 
The United States already had a strong set of sanctions in place against 
the country, including a ban on new investment, a ban on assistance to the 
military regime, denial of trade preferences and a visa ban on senior 
government officials. Those measures would remain in place and additional 
options had not been ruled out at the present time.

END OF PART 1

This document is divided into two parts for easier downloading. The 
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