News / Asia

ILO Welcomes Burma's Proposed New Labor Laws

Two young ethnic Karen boys guard a military post at New Manerplaw, Burma, Jan 31, 2004 (File Photo)
Two young ethnic Karen boys guard a military post at New Manerplaw, Burma, Jan 31, 2004 (File Photo)
Ron Corben

The International Labor Organization (ILO) says it is encouraged by proposed legislation in Burma to allow greater freedom for labor unions, but remains concerned about the use of forced child labor in the military and private sector.

The ILO representative in Burma, Steve Marshall, speaking to reporters Tuesday, said Burma’s military is preparing legislation that will allow for legal trade unions, with rights to strike. Marshall said this is a further step in signs of economic reform.

The legislation is set to be presented before a new parliament elected last November and due to hold its first session in late January. Marshall said the legislation marks a major step in the country’s labor rights.

"Obviously, the issue of freedom of association, which is effectively the right of workers and people to be represented which includes the issues of, for example, collective bargaining, it would include the issues of the right to strike ... they are critical and if passed into law make a big change in terms of the way in which the society is able to develop," said Marshall.

The military government in Burma, also known as Myanmar, already has ratified the internationally recognized Freedom of Association Convention, which is the standard set by the ILO.

Marshall says, though, that while the introduction of the legislation is a step towards an improved labor market in Burma, the overall reform program remains in its early days.

Human rights groups say while unions and associations have been a feature of Burma’s economic and political life, they have been tightly regulated by the military.

Trade unionists also have been jailed for activities "not sanctioned’ by the military." Thailand-based rights group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), says of the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently detained, 44 are labor activists.

The ILO’s chief goal in Burma has been to assist in ending forced labor and it has an agreement with the military government that enables complaints to be lodged with the organization’s country offices. Last year the ILO received 370 complaints, marking a sharp increase over recent years.

Marshall said the ILO remains concerned over ongoing issues of child labor and recruitment of child soldiers into Burma’s armed forces. He said there have been signs of progress in dealings with the armed forces.

"In the area of child soldiers - yes - there is a general positive move," said Marshall. "In the last year, for example, 73 children - as a result of complaints made to the ILO - were released and discharged from the military."

The military government recently announced a program of national military service for both men and women that may come into effect beginning in 2012.

Burma’s army, faced with problems of recruitment and desertion, has looked to underage recruitment using labor brokers. Marshall said the proposed national service is expected to have a direct impact on child recruits.

Marshall added that many children often are lured into forced labor due to poverty when families are unable to pay for the child’s education.

But forced labor remains a major problem across Burma, with rights groups citing villages forced to construct roads and other work for the military, while jailed prisoners also are recruited for local industries.

A further assessment of Burma’s labor practices is expected to take place in February, when an ILO mission, including labor specialists, will appraise the reforms and new labor legislation.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs