Decision on the fifth item on the agenda: Developments concerning the question of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)

Record of decisions | 24 March 2011

Decision on the fifth item on the agenda: Developments concerning the question of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)

Conclusions concerning Myanmar

The Governing Body took note of the report of the Liaison Officer, the statement made by the Permanent Representative of the Government of the Union of Myanmar and the subsequent discussion. In the light of the debate, it adopted the following conclusions:

1. The Governing Body welcomes some positive developments in Myanmar as well as the extension of the Supplementary Understanding trial period for a further 12 months, and urges a revitalized programme of activities towards fully implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.

2. The Governing Body notes the increase in the number of cases dealt with under the terms of the Supplementary Understanding. This highlights the need for the Government to adopt a more proactive stance in dealing with the overall causes of forced labour and for it to cooperate in ensuring that the ILO Liaison Office is adequately strengthened to respond to its increasing workload, including through timely positive responses to visa and licensing applications.

3. The Governing Body notes the Government’s indication that draft legislation aimed at achieving legislative conformity with Convention No. 29 is in the process of preparation. It invites the Government to take advantage of the technical assistance of the ILO with a view to the rapid amendment of the Village and Towns Acts 1907, the review of the Jail Manual, and the introduction of proposed new labour legislation prohibiting the use of forced labour in all its forms.

4. The Governing Body strongly supports educational and awareness-raising activities as a means for changing behavioural patterns in respect of forced labour and to this end calls for the continuation of such activities particularly amongst the civilian and military authorities, for the continuation of initiatives for enhanced community awareness including ILO workshop activity, and for the publication and wide distribution of the information brochure on forced labour in local languages in addition to the official national language. Specific targeted awareness raising and training of persons associated with or affected by major construction projects, including oil/gas pipelines, would also be of particular importance.

5. While taking note of the information provided on activities undertaken, the Governing Body re-emphasizes the need for national laws to be consistently applied. The practices of the army and defence institutions in respect of forced cropping and the forcible use of villagers or prison labour for portering of military supplies, sentry duty and construction work in conflict zones, must be stopped. The Government is urged to take all measures to combat the culture of impunity, including through the strict application of the Penal Code to all those who use forced labour, even when such acts are committed by the military.

6. The successful elimination of the use of forced labour depends critically on the confidence of persons to complain of breaches of the law in the knowledge that they can do so without fear of harassment or retaliation.

7. The Governing Body, whilst noting the early release of U Htay Aung, reaffirms its previous call for the release of U Zaw Htay, U Nyan Myint, Daw Su Su Nway, U Min Aung, U Myo Aung Thant, U Thurein Aung, U Wai Lin, U Nyi Nyi Zaw, U Kyaw Kyaw, U Kyaw Win and U Myo Min, and of other persons still in detention, including labour activists and persons associated with the making of, or supporting the submission of, complaints under the Supplementary Understanding. Furthermore, the Governing Body calls for the Government to facilitate the free access of the Liaison Officer to visit persons so detained and to effect the reinstatement of the advocacy licences of U Aye Myint and Ko Pho Phyu.

8. The Governing Body notes that a number of long-standing complaints in the Magwe Region remain unresolved and, as a result, the issues and relationships in this area are becoming more complex and entrenched, with the potential to disrupt the overall positive operation of the Supplementary Understanding. The Government is urged to work with the ILO Liaison Officer towards finding early and lasting solutions to these cases.

9. The Governing Body recalls and reconfirms all of its previous conclusions and those of the International Labour Conference, and calls upon the Government and the Office to work proactively towards their realization.

Geneva, 24 March 2011