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Labor Conditions In Burma


The United Nations International Labor Organization, the I-L-O, has issued a report describing a Burmese government campaign of intimidation. The Burmese authorities have organized anti–I-L-O rallies, announced Burma's intention to withdraw from the I-L-O, and refused to investigate more than twenty death threats against Richard Horsey, the International Labor Organization's liaison officer. One letter addressed to Mr. Horsey says, "Your head will be cut off and our people will crush and poison you."

According to news reports, the Burmese junta has been repressing workers, especially those who contact the I-L-O. Ko Ko Naing, an activist with the Federation of Trade Unions - Burma, told a reporter that ten people were arrested because they sent evidence of forced labor to I-L-O officials.

Su Su Nway, a Burmese National League for Democracy member, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. She had sued local authorities in Kawmoo township for using forced labor. Ko Tate Naing, secretary of the Burmese Association for Political Prisoners, says, "The authorities clearly intended to punish Su Su Nway for her bravery, and in doing so intimidate other villagers into not speaking out against the practice of forced labor."

The U.S. State Department's most recent human rights report says the Burmese government "does not allow unions; therefore, workers did not have the right to organize and bargain collectively." Says the report, in Burma, "Forced or compulsory labor remained a widespread and serious problem, particularly among minority groups."

Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky says that the U.S. "will continue to help the people of Burma in their struggle":

"We need to press the world to stand firm against the junta, and remind people everywhere precisely what's going on in Rangoon."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. commends the International Labor Organization "for its efforts in Burma to help eradicate forced labor, and condemn[s] the Burmese regime's continuing violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.

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