Myanmar (Burma)
Urgent Interventions

Statement on forced labour in Burma/Myanmar - 93rd International Labour Conference

ORAL STATEMENT BY THE WORLD ORGANISATION AGAINST TORTURE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE, 93rd SESSION COMMITTEE ON THE APPLICATION OF STANDARDS SITTING ON FORCED LABOUR IN BURMA/MYANMAR (CONVENTION 29) GENEVA, JUNE 4, 2005 Mr. Chairman, The World Organisation against Torture, also known as the OMCT, coordinates a network of about 280 non-governmental organisations with as primary goal preventing the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. OMCT is alarmed by the continued use of forced labour in Burma/Myanmar, often associated with torture and other types of physical and psychological abuse. We are highly concerned about the situation of the hundreds of thousands of people in Burma/Myanmar who are subjected to forced labour and other human rights abuses or live under the constant threat of being subjected to it in the near future. Since 1964 the Committee of Experts has expressed its concern at the use of forced labour in Burma and the existence of legislation in contradiction with Convention 29. However, no substantive measures have been taken by the Government to ban forced labour. As noted by the ILO Director-General in his 2005 Global Report, still today there exists no political will in Burma/Myanmar to take strong measures against military and local authorities who impose forced labour. Forced labour is always cruel, inhuman and degrading and it may be considered as an act of torture per se. In Burma/Myanmar it is often accompanied by other forms of torture, including enforced displacement, rape, as well as food and health care deprivation or other ill-treatment resulting in death, and where resistance to forced labour is met, with further ill-treatment, detentions and extra-judicial executions. Furthermore, it frequently entails sexual exploitation, child labour, human minesweeping, the extortion and forced eviction of civilians, and extremely harsh labour conditions. Recent reports1 from the field include denunciations of government officers who forced civilians to stand sentry at risk of their lives2, and a military commander who beat a civilian to death in Shan State for refusing to provide his vehicle for forced labour3. Forum-Asia4 provides evidence of renewed use of forced labour in the Northern Arakan State in construction work, harvesting, portering and other duties for the military. The enforced enrolment of children in the army, with the threat of imprisonment, is also a common practice throughout the country5. Torture in Burma/Myanmar is by no means restricted to its direct association with forced labour and is often exerted upon pro-democracy activists, monks, or women in the form of sexual abuse. OMCT considers that both torture and forced labour, as they deny the fundamental respect of human dignity, are not only closely intertwined, but have in common an absolute rejection of the most fundamental human rights. OMCT urges that all necessary measures be taken in order to ensure the compliance by Burma/Myanmar with the absolute interdiction of forced labour and other human rights abuses associated with it. Our organisation hopes that in this session of the International Labour Conference concrete and energetic measures will be taken in order to ensure the full implementation of Convention 29 and of the provisions of the June 2000 Resolution. Thank you Mr. Chairman. 1 See 2 See May 2005 report from the field by the Karen Human Rights Group, 3 According to reports by the Shan Human Rights Foundation, cited in the US State Department 2004 Report on Burma. See also 4 See Forum-Asia report dated 26 May 2005, Back to the bad old days! See 5 See Forced Labour in Burma (Myanmar), a report by the Federation of Trade Unions – Burma, After 2004 International Labour Conference