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UN Secretary General Welcomes Agreement on Victims of Forced Labor in Burma

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has praised an agreement between the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Burma's military government that allows its citizens to complain to the world body about forced labor.

Mr. Ban welcomed the development Tuesday, saying the establishment of this mechanism has been a long-standing request of the International Labor Conference and the ILO governing body.

The agreement allows the ILO liaison officer in Rangoon to make a preliminary investigation of the alleged cases, and guarantees that the government will not retaliate against those making the complaints.

It will be in effect for a 12-month trial period with the possibility of an extension, and will allow the ILO liaison officer to travel freely across the country to meet with concerned parties.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari stressed the importance of the agreement during his recent visit to Burma.

The ILO says forced labor is common in Burma and has accused the Burmese government of complicity in the practice. The military government's decision to cooperate came after the ILO threatened sanctions and prosecution at the U.N.'s International Court of Justice.