UN agency voices concern over sentencing of labour activist in Myanmar

19 September 2008

The United Nations labour agency today expressed concern at the recent sentencing of an activist in Myanmar to two years of hard labour, saying it raises questions about the honouring of an agreement between the Asian country and the agency.

The International Labour Office, the permanent secretariat of the International Labour Organization (ILO), called on the Government of Myanmar to urgently review the sentence of U Thet Way and immediately release the activist.

“The ILO governing body has been watching this case with interest and in March of this year expressed the expectation that he would retain his freedom,” the agency said in a press release issued from its headquarters in Geneva.

“This expectation was reconfirmed by the 97th Session of the International Labour Conference in June of this year. The case has been the subject of direct discussion with the Government at a senior level,” the ILO added.

U Thet Way has facilitated the lodging of complaints on behalf of victims of forced labour, including under-age recruitment into the army, and many of these complaints have been successfully resolved, according to the ILO.

The agency said this was in line with the Supplementary Understanding, an agreement in force between Myanmar’s Government and the ILO.

“The Supplementary Understanding provides full protection and retaliation for persons making or supporting complaints of forced labour, including under-age recruitment. The charge on which he was sentenced may formally be unrelated to his ILO-related activities; two further charges with direct links to the ILO were withdrawn before final sentencing.

“The sentence given is heavy and the maximum permissible under the law. The ILO cannot but consider that the sentence imposed is related to U Thet Way’s role in complaining on forced labour practices.”


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