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ILO Wants To Monitor Forced Labor In Burma - 2001-11-15

The governing body of the International Labor Organization, ILO, called on Burma's military government to let the ILO set up a permanent office so the organization can monitor the country's use of forced labor.

Last year, under pressure from the labor organization, the military junta enacted legislation that it claimed was designed to eliminate forced labor. But at a news conference Thursday, ILO officials made it clear that forced labor remains a problem in Burma.

Francis Maupin, a special adviser to the ILO director general, said the organization wants the Burmese government to agree to an ILO presence in the country. Mr. Maupin said the law enacted last year allows victims of forced labor to go to court, but he added that many of the victims are reluctant to do so, which is why the ILO wants to be there. "Maybe the fact that the I-L-O has a presence there could encourage the victims to complain. And perhaps the presence of the I-L-O could give them a sense of security about the fact that they could file complaints and not be victimized subsequently," he said.

Mr. Maupin said the ILO can be effective only if its staff is given freedom of movement throughout the country and its independence is respected.

The ILO official said at least one Burmese official, the country's ambassador to the ILO, has accepted the suggestion in principle, but he has to consult with his government before he can make a definite commitment to allow the ILO to establish an office in the country.

The board has given Burma until March to make a decision. If Burma does not accept the ILO offer, Mr. Maupin warns that the organization's member states could enact tougher economic measures against the country.