UN labour agency mission calls off further talks on forced labour in Myanmar

24 February 2005

A high-level United Nations labour agency mission to Myanmar to look into allegations of the use of forced labour has called off further discussions because its visit did not include meetings necessary for it to successfully complete its mandate.

A high-level United Nations labour agency mission to Myanmar to look into allegations of the use of forced labour has called off further discussions because its visit did not include meetings necessary for it to successfully complete its mandate.

The very High-Level Team (vHLT), appointed in November by International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia to evaluate the authorities’ attitude at the highest level towards eliminating forced labour and assess their determination to continue cooperation with the agency, visited Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, from 21 to 23 February.

“The Myanmar authorities were fully aware of these terms of reference before the mission departed for Yangon,” the three-member team said in a departure statement. “However, the mission was informed on its arrival that for various reasons linked to the National Convention the programme did not include the meetings that would have enabled it to successfully complete its mandate as it understood it.

“Under the circumstances, and after having discussions and making its views known to the Minister for Labour and to the Prime Minister, the mission decided that there would be no point at this stage to have more in-depth discussions at the technical level on the concrete steps outlined in those meetings which in the mission’s view could contribute to alleviating recent concerns expressed in the (ILO) Governing Body,” it added.

The mission, which will submit its report to the next Governing Body session in March, made public four clarifying points regarding matters under discussion, including the issuance of directives by the Defence Ministry to all units under its command not to requisition forced labour.

The other points were: re-commitment by the authorities to the terms of the joint plan of action on forced labour, including appointment of a high-level focal point in the army to deal with allegations that concern the army; re-commitment to freedom of movement of the ILO Liaison Officer; and additional measures that could build confidence vis-à-vis the people of Myanmar as regards possibilities to lodge complaints regarding forced labour.

The mission comprised Sir Ninian Stephen, former Governor General of Australia, Ruth Dreifuss, former President of the Swiss Confederation and Eui-yong Chung, former Chairman of the Governing Body of the ILO and member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (ROK).

 

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