Forced labor is still very common in Burma – the ILO must put more pressure on Burma!

Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will visit the ILO conference in Geneva (June 14, 2012)

Many people are still subjected to forced labor in Burma. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) emphasizes this fact on occasion of the planned speech by Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, at a conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva. On Wednesday, the human rights organization urged the ILO to impose more pressure on Burma to put an end to forced labor. "Especially people from the Rohingya and Shan villages are repeatedly subjected to forced labor," reported Ulrich Delius, the STP's Asia-consultant. Here the STP disagrees with an ILO report published in May 2012, which acknowledged a significant progress in fighting forced labor in the south-east Asian country. The first speech of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in front of the ILO on Thursday is eagerly awaited, because the ILO's recommendations will also influence whether or not the International Community will ease the sanctions against Burma.

While forced labor has disappeared from Burma's cities years ago, people from the Rohingya and Shan villages are regularly forced to work as carriers or construction workers for infrastructure facilities by the army or by the NaSaKa border troops. They have to build roads and bridges or repair damaged roads – especially in the north of the state of Arakan (officially: Rakhaine). After the monsoon had caused damages to the roads along the border to Bangladesh, the NaSaKa forced villagers to carry out repair works. They also had to recondition roads connecting military camps. The army abuses civilians as carriers in the remote mountainous areas. Villagers were also forced to set up a 70-kilometer-long border fence to neighboring Bangladesh. The border fortification is meant to prevent the Rohingya people – who are discriminated in Burma – from fleeing to Bangladesh.

In his speech on May 1st, 2012, President Thein Sein had promised to abolish forced labor until the year 2015. "Burma's government has promised this for years, but the situation has still not changed to the better in many of the nationality areas," criticized Delius. In February 2007, Burma had allowed affected people to report their complaints to the ILO. However, this move brought no progress, because the laborers are often too scared to speak out against the abuse for fear of being punished in consequence. Also, ILO staff have been expelled.