Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The alleged cases of forced labour in Myanmar increased by 50% over the past five months, over half concerns the recruitment of children and young people among the ranks of the army. This is shown by a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which admits the "ineffectiveness" of pressure to the Burmese government.
Last June, the ILO criticized a provision of the Constitution of Myanmar – which the junta drafted and ratified in a farce referendum in 2008 - that justifies the exploitation of forced labour as punishment for crimes or "in case of assignments entrusted by the Union [Myanmar], in accordance with law and in the public interest.”
As of 28 October, allegations of forced labour made to the ILO offices are 223. These are supplemented by the recruitment of 112 children in the army over the past seven months. Aye Myint, an activist for the rights of workers in Pegu, Bago division, told the dissident newspaper The Irrawaddy that the young people were recruited between May and November "and families have submitted complaints.
Defence of human rights groups confirm that the Burmese military junta continues a campaign of forced recruitment of minors into the army. Children are picked up from school, bars, cinemas or in the evening as they return home. They are threatened and beaten if they resist. Completed training, they are sent to war zones to fight against ethnic rebels.
The ILO document explains that, following complaints from families, “59 child soldiers were demobilized, 30 cases are currently pending and awaiting the start of the nine others". Forced labour in Myanmar takes on many forms: construction of roads and infrastructure, use of civilians as porters for the army or minesweepers.
The government has signed an agreement with the International Labour Organization "not to punish" those who report cases of forced labour. In many cases happens, however, that local officials (civilian and military) retaliate, through harassment or violence against those who dare to rebel.
The Karen Human Rights Group (Khrg) is launching a new appeal for "a real step forward in defending the rights of children affected by war." The problem of child soldiers has dragged on for years in Myanmar: a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2002 estimated that at least 70 thousand members of the Burmese army are under the age of 18.