06/08/2011, 00.00
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ILO complains about a “dramatic” rise in forced labour cases

UN agency said that in 2010 the number of complaints more than double over the previous three years, largely because of greater public awareness of the problem. Since 2010, ILO’s Yangon branch office has received 506 complaints, but there are still tens of thousands of children soldiers.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar has seen a “dramatic” rise in complaints about forced labour, due in great part to increased public awareness of the problem, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said Tuesday. The organisation promotes social justice and human rights. Since 2010, its Yangon branch received 506 complaints, more than double the number of the previous three years.

“This dramatic increase can be put down to extensive awareness raising activity,” the ILO’s Burma liaison officer, Steve Marshall, said.

Of 749 complaints received since early 2007, 582 fell within the ILO’s limited mandate in Burma. Many involve child soldiers. In fact, the mandate of the Un agency is subject to restrictions. The government allows the group to work only in support of its policies.

Marshall said the distribution of a Burmese-language brochure explaining the law was probably the main driver behind the rise in complaints. However, “Many people are still either unaware of their rights or are not in a position to attempt to exercise them.”

The ILO’s agreement to work in the country, extended in February this year for another 12 months, first came into effect in February 2007.

Since then, 174 people recruited underage by the military have been returned to their families, the ILO said. At the same time, 20 officers and 110 other ranks have been disciplined, according to defence officials.

Rights activists believe thousands of child soldiers are still being used by the military. Some of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups have also been named by the UN for recruiting and using children in conflict.

“There is still a long way to go,” Marshall said because many complaints fall outside the ILO’s mandate, especially with regards to land confiscation, corruption and industrial disputes.

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