Mon 31 Jul 2006
Filed under: International,News
A deadline set by the UN’s labor agency for Myanmar to free jailed workers’ advocates and end any related prosecutions passed Monday amid confusion over how much the junta had done to comply.
The International Labor Organization said two activists had been freed, but three others still faced court charges that could see them imprisoned.
“The headlines are that the two people who were in prison for cases related to the ILO have been released,” ILO’s representative in Myanmar, Richard Horsey, told AFP in Bangkok.
“Prosecution of three more people is ongoing,” he added.
The last hearing in that case was held on July 20, when it was referred to a higher court for another hearing next month.
Horsey said it remained unclear if the case had been referred so that it could be dismissed.
The passing of the deadline does not trigger any specific action, but was intended to push Myanmar to create conditions that would allow talks with the ILO on creating a credible new mechanism for handling complaints of forced labor, Horsey said.
“It’s a question of creating an environment where those discussions can go forward with credibility and good faith,” he said.
The ILO’s governing body will then reconsider Myanmar’s case at its next meeting in November.
If the military-ruled country is deemed to have failed to make progress, the ILO could refer the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The ILO has been trying for almost a decade to get Myanmar’s government to crack down on forced labor.
In 1998, an ILO inquiry found that forced labor was pervasive and systematic throughout the country, particularly with the military.
As part of a deal aimed at averting sanctions, Myanmar agreed to allow the ILO to maintain a liaison office in Yangon.
But the junta’s cooperation has never come easily. The ILO has complained about limits on its activities and death threats against its staff last year.
The generals have banned forced labor in law, but the outside monitors say little action has been taken to stop the practice.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International said last year that tens of thousands of people were being forced into labor and suffering other abuses.