Saturday, June 6, 2009
6 June 2009
U Maung Maung
Federation of Trade Unions Burma FTUB - ITUC
Thank you Chair.
The FTUB would like to take this opportunity to thank the ITUC, the ILO and the Liaison office for their the efforts to secure the immediate release of the 4 FTUB members arrested in Burma in April 2009. Although the efforts to secure those 4 individuals were successful, there are still six individuals in custody for their attempt to organize a May Day discussion, and 22 other workers rights activists are in prison serving long sentences for their efforts to secure rights for Burmese workers. Many of them have been transferred to locations far from their homes, making it difficult for their families to visit them while they are in prison.
For the FTUB and the people of Burma, our objective is eradicating the use of Forced Labor in Burma.
Forced Labor still continues in all parts of Burma. The perpetrators, the majority of whom are military personal, continue to abuse our citizens through forced labor, because there are no meaningful penalties.
Burma is ruled by a military junta and it is quite clear that forced labor is being utilized under the command of military officers. For those in the military, the most severe penalty for abuse of forced labor is the removal of one year of seniority. The result is that the value of using forced labor is greater than the threat of any possible punishment.
The rural population lives in fear that they will be taken by force to carry out the “ duties assigned by the state,” or that their land will be forcefully confiscated for “security issues.”
The number of reports to the Liaison office has increased – which show that more people have come to know that they have the right to intervene – that in spite of the unusual slowness of the SPDC, through many different approaches, many education and awareness programs have reached the people. These education programs need to be pushed through so that the majority of the population will understand their basic workers rights.
The successive juntas have always claimed that their lack of funds has hampered change in Burma.
This claim is clearly untrue. Since the March 2000 277th ILO Session, in which article 33 was exercised, and since the June 2000 session adopted a resolution in Burma, the junta -- shifted the capital of Burma to a isolated location complete with a new airport and re-enforced concrete buildings, -- brought a nuclear reactor from Russia for research purposes, -- sent over 300 military person to Russia for advanced physics and nuclear technology training, and -- opened up trade and technology exchange with North Korea. All of these projects were implemented with a budget that has never been seen by the public. The small part of the expended funds on these projects would have been more than enough to have been used for the “replacement of forced or unpaid labor, multiplier courses or legal education lectures.” And, as they do not have the political commitment, the junta still blames the world and refuse to use its own money on bettering the lives of the people.
It is evident that even under severe mismanagement of the economy in Burma, oil and gas revenues are more than enough for military developments but never used to solve the social and economic issues of the people. We want the multinational companies that work with the junta to understand the negative impacts of their work.
It has been a decade since Order 1/99 was issued by the Burmese Ministry of Home Affairs, which “directs the Chairmen of the Ward and Village Tract Peace and Development Councils and the responsible persons of the Department of General Administration and the Myanmar Police Force not to exercise powers under these provisions relating to requisition for personal service prescribed in the above-mentioned Towns Act, 1907 and the Village Act, 1907” and where (6) paragraph states “ Any person who fails to abide by this Order shall have action taken against him under the existing law.”
The junta has declared that their new constitution allows for Forced Labor under section 359 ( paragraph 15 of Chapter VII ). They will seek to implement their constitution through forced elections in 2010.
Before the junta forces their constitution on the people in 2010, we call on the ILO and all of its members, meaning every individual and organization represented in this room, to do everything in their power to push for change in Burma and a review of the Junta’s constitution.
We first participated at the ILC in 1992 and have seen at least three Labor Ministers change, but have seen no substantive changes for the people of Burma except in those areas that are accessible by monitors. Outside of those areas, we have seen no lessening of Forced Labor, particularly in the rural areas and the areas where the ethnic nationalities are the majority of the population.
The ILO has the power to push for positive change for the people of Burma. Before this constitution is put into place, we request that the ILO ask for an advisory opinion from the ICJ, as agreed at the 2006 March Governing Body.
This request from the ILO would not only send a strong message to the junta that their use of forced labor will not go unnoticed or unpunished, but it would also send a strong message to the many labor activists in Burma that the world is fighting with them for change in Burma. As the ICJ is a key part of the UN system, it will also help bring unity on Burma action within the various sectors of the UN. We ask for your support for our friends and colleagues fighting in Burma.
Intervention by FTUB ITUC
Special Sitting on Forced Labor ( No.29)
International Labor Conference. 6 June 2009