Tue 18 Oct 2005
Filed under: International,News
The Brussels-based international Confederation of Free Trade Unions has said there is â€œlittle changeâ€ in Burma’s poor labor and human rights record in a report on global working conditions released today.
In its Asia section-entitled â€œBrutal Repression of Workers’ Rightsâ€-the ICFTU highlights the continuing incarceration of unionists in Burma and says forced labor is â€œcontinuing unabatedâ€ due to government suppression.
â€œWhatever the written law, in practice, workers who fight to redress conditions that are often atrocious face threats, violence and murder,â€ it says, adding that effectively no trade unions are tolerated in Burma.
The ICFTU criticizes the ruling State Peace and Development Council for failing to clarify legislation related to workers’ unions, although it says a ban on the congregation of five or more people effectively prohibits any kind of union activity.
The report-which documents events up to the end of 2004-highlights the cases of six trade union-affiliated Burmese currently in prisons throughout the country. The most high-profile-Myo Aung Thant-was incarcerated in 1997 for maintaining contacts with the Federal Trade Unions of Burma, an exile group outlawed by the junta. Myo Aung Thant was accused of planning to detonate bombs smuggled into Burma in a rice cooker, an order it claims came from the FTUB. He is currently imprisoned in Myitkyina, Kachin State.
The most disturbing case, the report says, is that of three FTUB activists, U Nai Min Kyi, U Aye Myint and U Shwe Mahn who had been sentenced to death by the junta in November 2003 for contacting Rangoon’s ILO office, an act which prompted the junta to file charges of high treason with intent to assassinate top state officials. Their sentences have since been reduced to two years imprisonment with hard labor following a lengthy appeals process and negotiations between the ILO and the SPDC.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy today, ICFTU representative Janek Kuczkiewicz said there had been other worrying examples of junta persecution of Burmese workers and unions. Kuczkiewicz highlighted the case of Su Su Nway who sued local authorities for pressuring her into forced labor, a move which backfired when the SPDC in turn sentenced her to 18 months imprisonment earlier this month for abusing government officials.
â€œWe are in discussions now with the ILO as to what the best possibilities are to help that woman,â€ Kuczkiewicz said. â€œThe case is very high on the ILO’s agenda.â€
The ILO’s Rangoon office was today unavailable for comment.
Both the ICFTU and the ILO have also been tracking the cases of 10 FTUB-affiliated Burmese arrested earlier this year in connection with bombings in Rangoon in May.
The SPDC held a press conference announcing their arrests in August, during which it again labeled the FTUB a terrorist organization for â€œtrainingâ€ those it claims were responsible for the attacks.
Kuczkiewicz said he rejected the junta’s charges. â€œThe accusations of the SPDC are basically completely unfounded.â€
â€œWe have put the FTUB and its General Secretary Maung Maung under very intense questioning,â€ Kuczkiewicz added, reiterating the ICFTU’s continued support for the organization.