Written by U Ne Oo on 2000-12-05
All Burma watchers on this list are aware about the circumstances surrounding the latest ILO technical mission to Rangoon and decision by Governing Body of ILO that followed. Notably, the ILO technical mission, unlike its previous missions to Rangoon, has received under a somewhat co-operative atmosphere by the SPDC/SLORC. The mission consequently wrote a reasonably positive report re: the SPDC/SLORC cooperation on the issue of forced labor. On the one hand, the Governing Body find that such gesture of cooperation from SPDC/SLORC has been 'too little & too late' and decided to take action. All of these events occur against the background of the UN General Assembly for year 2000 has been in session.
EXPECTATION NOT MEET
Looking back, the UN General Assembly approved the ILO to investigate the situation of forced labour during 1996 meeting. The GA particularly has urged the SPDC/SLORC to cooperate with the ILO's forced labour inquiry in General Assembly's 1997 session. As the ILO inquiry reached its conclusion 1998, following the recommendations by ILC in June 2000 and -as of recent - the decision by Governing Body to take action on Burmese junta, it will be interesting how the UN General Assembly may incorporate ILO recommendations in its annual resolution this year. The General Assembly dis-regarding or postponeing to take into account of the ILO recommendations at this point will amount to the failure of UN human rights mechanism. The GA draft resolution, which posted few weeks ago by
"11. Takes note of the recent visit by the ILO technical cooperation mission to Myanmar, and the cooperation extended to the mission, while awaiting the result of the mission;"
which is obviously still inconclusive. It would not make sense for the General Assembly waiting another year about the result of the Technical Mission/GB decision on forced labor in Burma.
UN INACTION AND MOCKED ACTION
To my view, the General Assembly encouraging the ILO to look into the forced labour issue in 1996, by itself, constituted a mocked action. This ILO inquiry was held against the background of the recommendations by Commission on Human Rights [ i.e. previous UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Professor Yozo Yokota, who resigned in June 1996 ] the United Nations to send human rights monitors to Burma. The General Assembly in 1996 unfortunately choose not to send human rights monitors; instead encouraged ILO to look into forced labour issue.
DIGRESSION: the inaction of UN General Assembly is to be seen as a phenomenon, not being directed at Burma specific issues. Nonetheless, this phenomenon lend no comfort to Burmese opposition activists who usually seek the redress to human rights violations in Burma at GA. Professionals who are working within UN establishment, too, appears to be uncomfortable with this phenomenon. For example Judge Rajsoomer Lallah, recently resigned Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Burma, has since 1998 been recommending an independent inquiry into the deaths in custody of Mr Leo Nichols and few others; but the GA fails to take up the issue. In this light, the Judge Lallah resigning from his post is understandable: no person of such professional standing will tolerate when his recommendations being thrown out repeatedly by the General Assembly.
Notwithstanding the UNGA inactions, the ILO has conducted the inquiry on Burma in a competent and professional manner. The way the organisation conduct its business on Burma, particularly the transparency, is worthy of our respect. However, the action to remedy situation of forced labour in Burma is not the responsibility of ILO organisation alone.
Currently, the ILO Governing Body reportedly on its own appealing to individual governments to take actions. It is a brave move by ILO. However, the United Nations Organisation, the General Assembly and Security Council must help translate the concerns of ILO into necessary action. The UN General Assembly, which encourage the ILO's inquiry into forced labor in the first place, must take into account of the recommendations of ILO and reflect these in the GA resolution. The UN Security Council, in particular, must help the ILO forced labor monitors getting unhindered access to Burma.
BETTER BE WRONG CONCLUSIONS WITH THE JUNTA
Interestingly, the report by ILO Technical Mission indicates the SPDC/SLORC might be willing to accept ILO forced labor monitors. Obviously, we cannot trust the SPDC/SLORC's words of promise, unless it has signed a proper MoU with ILO regarding the labor monitors. In this respect, the ILO Governing Body is right about the decision to take proper cause of action on the Burmese junta. On the one hand, the junta behaves a little better when dealing with ILO Technical mission because the junta fears the General Assembly (& Security Council) might take up this issue further. Even if current crisis for forced labor monitors is resolved, we can expect the intervention by Security Council further down the track -- especially when enforcing international labor standards.
With best regards, U Ne Oo.
LETTER TO MR JUAN SOMAVIA (31/10/2000)
Dr U Ne Oo
18 Shannon Place
Adelaide SA 5000
31st October 2000.
Mr Juan Somavia
The International Labour Office
CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland
Facsimile: (+41-22) 799-8533
Re: UN Security Council action on forced labor in Burma
Please find enclosed report, "BURMA: Towards Political Solution", concerning with political and human rights situation in Burma. I have submitted this report to various governments and United Nations authorities for their consideration at the 55th Session of UN General Assembly. On this note, I also ask you and the ILO Governing Body to take into your consideration about the recommendations to cease forced labor in Burma. In particular, the ILO Governing Body should request the UN General Assembly and Security Council support the efforts to end the practice of forced labour in law as well as in practice.
To repeal the Village and Town Acts in Burma, it is essential for United Nations General Assembly to authorise the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP) to rewrite these laws. In order to end the forced labour on the ground, the ILO and UN Commission on Human Rights must send in-country human rights monitors to Burma. In this context, the ILO Governing Body should request to UN Security Council to create unhindered access for the UN Human Rights Commission and ILO mission to monitor forced labour situation in Burma.
We, the Burmese exiles, have been watching with interest about recent
ILO technical cooperation mission's visit to Rangoon. Such effort by ILO
is much appreciated; it however has been a foregone conclusion that the
junta will be uncooperative in ending the practice of forced
labor. Therefore, the time is right for the ILO Governing Body to take a further step to strengthen its demand for ceasing the practice of forced labour in Burma.
In closing, I thank you and ILO for your continuing efforts in ending the practice of forced labour in Burma.
Yours respectfully and sincerely,
(U Ne Oo)