ILO: Increased Awareness Leads to More Complaints of Forced Labor

Posted June 6th, 2011 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The International labor organization says improved public awareness about the law on forced labor in Burma has led to an increase in formal complaints to the group's liaison office in Rangoon.

The United Nations labor organization says the increasing number of complaints is seen as a sign that the Burmese people are more aware of their rights to complain, rather than an increase in incidents of abuse.

An ILO panel reviewing the past year's labor situation in Burma says authorities have published and distributed a Burmese language brochure explaining the labor laws and procedures for filing complaints.

The group reports that in spite of these activities, there is evidence that both military and civilian authorities in Burma have continued to use forced, unpaid labor for their projects. It says that criminal penalties for such unlawful practices have not been strictly enforced.

The ILO panel has called on Burmese authorities to make sure that the legal framework prohibits all forms of forced labor and that measures are taken to prevent and punish such practices.


The panel also urges the government to prevent recruitment of children into armed forces.

The report says the military has made efforts to train personnel about the laws regarding under-age recruitment. As a result, 174 under age persons have been discharged and released to their families. Burmese officials have reported that 20 officers and 110 soldiers in other ranks have been disciplined in response to complaints.

Human rights groups have long accused the Burmese government of using forced labor for state-run construction projects and of recruiting child soldiers.

In 2007, Burma's government relented to international pressure and allowed an ILO official based in Rangoon to deal with complaints from victims. Since then, the liaison official has received 711 complaints, of which 161 were outside his mandate.

Burma held its first elections in 20 years last November. The new government has promised a new era of development and good governance. But critics say the military continues to hold power in the Asian country.