International Labour Conference

5 June 2004


Special sitting of the Committee on the Application of Standards to examine developments concerning the question of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)





After taking note of the information provided by the Government representative, the Committee noted with deep concern the observation of the Committee of Experts which examined the measures taken by the Government to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. The Committee of Experts had noted in its observation that the three main recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry were still to be implemented. In spite of the Government's assurances of its good intentions, the measures taken had not brought about significant progress in actual practice and forced labour continued to be exacted in many parts of the country. No person responsible for imposing forced labour had ever been prosecuted or sentenced under the relevant provision of the Penal Code. In view of the slowness of progress, the Committee of Experts had expressed the hope that the process of dialogue and cooperation which had developed between the ILO and the Government could offer a real chance of bringing about more rapid and concrete progress, in particular through the implementation of the Plan of Action.


In this regard the Committee had to note its grave concern at the fact that three persons had been convicted of high treason, including on grounds of contacts with the ILO. The Committee was further deeply concerned that although on appeal the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentences, it had failed to bring clarity on this crucial point, despite the earlier assurances of the Government that contacts with the ILO could not be considered illegal in Myanmar. The Committee also expressed its concern at the freedom of association issues raised by the Supreme Court's findings. It joined the Governing Body in endorsing the recommendations put forward by the informal facilitator as regards the grounds for convicting the three persons and the need to release them. It agreed that this situation clearly was not one in which the Plan of Action could be credibly implemented.


The Committee had also taken note of the information provided by the Liaison Officer ad interim on his activities. It noted with appreciation the continued cooperation extended to the Liaison Officer by the Government and the freedom of movement that he enjoyed. It considered the fact that individuals were lodging complaints concerning forced labour with the Liaison Officer in increasing numbers, demonstrating the usefulness of the ILO presence. However, the Committee had to note with concern that the response to the individual allegations so far raised was inadequate and that to date not a single one of these allegations had been verified by the authorities nor had anyone so far been prosecuted for illegally imposing forced labour. This cast serious doubt on the willingness of the authorities to take the concrete steps necessary to ensure the elimination of forced labour in practice.


In that respect, reference was made to the fact that certain forms of forced labour referred to by the Commission of Inquiry such as work on infrastructure projects, using forced labour, forced recruitment of children and even the use of persons as minesweepers were still in use. The dissemination of information in relevant languages also left much to be desired.


The Committee took due note of the assurances provided by the Government representative that a further review by the Supreme Court would take place which would, inter alia, clarify the question of the legality of contacts with the ILO. The Committee was of the opinion that the Government now had a final opportunity to give practical effect to these assurances and to the recommendations of the informal facilitator. It noted that the Governing Body at its next session should be ready to draw the appropriate conclusions, including reactivation and review of the measures and action taken including those regarding foreign direct investment, called for in the resolution of the International Labour Conference of 2000, unless there was a clear change in the situation in the meantime.


Finally, the Committee recalled that the Government would have to supply a detailed report for examination by the Committee of Experts at its next session on all the steps taken to ensure compliance with the Convention in law and in practice.


The sitting closed at 1.40p.m.



[Source: scanned extract from ILO document C.App/PV.2, being the Provisional Verbatim record of the Special sitting of the Committee on the Application of Standards to examine developments concerning the question of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) which took place on the morning of 5 June 2004]