The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) today reported that despite new legislation in Myanmar, forced labour still existed in the country.
Myanmar had taken steps to address the problem after a 1998 ILO commission of inquiry reported that forced labour was a "widespread practice" in the country. In October 2000, the Myanmar authorities adopted, for the first time, a framework of measures banning forced labour and criminalizing the practice.
A recent four-week ILO mission to the country, in findings released today, concluded that the impact of the legislation had been limited. "In particular forced labour is practiced in its various forms (portering, building of military camps, agricultural work, etc.) in areas affected by military presence and especially in border areas where fighting may still be ongoing," the agency said.
The report identifies a number of obstacles which might explain the limited result, including the de facto impunity of the military from criminal prosecution and the authorities' lack of alternative arrangements to carry out public works in the absence of forced labour.
In response, the report calls for economic modernization in Myanmar, a consistent effort to eliminate forced labour there, and the engagement of the international community in this campaign.
The ILO notes that "the eradication of forced labour represents not only the discharge of a fundamental moral and legal obligation for Myanmar but also offers an historic opportunity for this country to accomplish its modernization."