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AP, Geneva, 16 November 2000.
The governing body of the International Labor Organization decided Thursday 
to impose sanctions
against Myanmar because of the country's use of forced labor.

In an informal vote, only four of 56 members opposed the measures against 
Myanmar, also known as
Burma, which will take effect Nov. 30. The sanctions will be applied under 
an article of the ILO
constitution which has never been used before in the body's 80-year history.

European nations, the United States and Canada, as well as all workers' and 
employers' representatives,
backed the decision.

''This reflects the more than three decades of frustration with the Burmese 
regime on their failure to stop
the use of forced labor a practice that is abhorrent to this 
organization,'' U.S. Deputy Labor Secretary
Andrew Samet told The Associated Press.

Myanmar has long been assailed by the United Nations and Western countries 
for suppression of
democracy and its human rights record.

The Myanmar government denied the existence of forced labor for a long 
time, claiming that civilians
contributed their labor voluntarily to promote the development of the 
nation. It now accepts that there
have been cases of forced labor.

Nevertheless, Myanmar Ambassador Mya Than, speaking before the decision, 
said sanctions would be
''the most tragic episode in the history of the ILO.''

The ILO body was acting on a decision last June by the International Labor 
Conference, the U.N.
agency's annual assembly of member nations.

The conference voted to recommend that ILO members _ governments, workers 
and employers
''review their links with Myanmar and take appropriate measures to ensure 
(Myanmar) cannot take
advantage of such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or 
compulsory labor.''

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions immediately called for 
tour operators to cancel
trips to Myanmar on the grounds that forced labor is used to develop the 
tourist infrastructure.

It also said multinational energy companies should reconsider their 
involvement in the Myanmar-Thailand
gas pipeline, where the ICFTU also has reported cases of forced labor.

ICFTU General-Secretary Bill Jordan said the decision was ''a message of 
hope for Burmese
democrats and for the hundreds of thousands of victims of inhuman 

Unlike Security Council sanctions, which spell out limits on trade and 
other punishments for the
offending nation, the ILO measures allow individual governments, employers' 
organizations and labor
unions to determine what they will do. The ILO has 174 member nations.

Samet said the U.S. government would now consult with workers and employers 
to see what could be
done by the United States to press for an end to forced labor.

Speakers at the meeting said they recognized that Myanmar had made moves to 
improve the situation,
but said these were ''too little, too late'' and that there was still no 
guarantee that forced labor would not
occur in Myanmar.

Mya Than said the Myanmar government had now put into place regulations 
which would ensure an end
to forced labor.

''We can assure you that ... no practice of forced labor will occur in the 
country, and if and when it does
occur, it should not be condoned and anyone guilty of such an offense shall 
be brought to justice,'' he

An ILO delegation, which visited Myanmar last month, reported that the 
country had made progress in
improving its laws, but it was unclear what is actually being done on the 
ground to stop the use of forced
labor. The day after the delegation left the country, Myanmar amended its 
laws to make forced labor a
criminal offense.

The military has ruled the country since 1962. The current regime organized 
a general election in 1990
but refused to yield power to the victorious party of pro-democracy leader 
Aung San Suu Kyi.