10/28/2005, 00.00
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Myanmar wants to quit ILO

The ruling military junta in former Burma has said it wants to leave the ILO but no official letter of notice has been submitted as yet.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Myanmar's ruling military junta has revealed its intention to leave the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The United Nations organistion had called on Yangon to eradicate forced labour. Yangon diplomats said the government had communicated this decision to an ILO mission at work in the country, while the Labour Minister informed Francis Maupain, a French lawyer with years of experience in the ILO and special adviser to the ILO director-general, who went to Yangon last week. A Myanmar official also said that in March this year, before the last major ILO meeting, the government had asked ministers to prepare a study on the political and financial consequences of a possible withdrawal from the ILO.

Maupain said the Myanmar government had also drawn up an official letter of notice which however had not been submitted as yet. To withdraw from the organization, Myanmar must give two years notice which will take effect from the time of the receipt of the letter by director-general Juan Somavia. It is practically certain that the letter has not been sent because the regime is waiting to see what will happen to a proposal to take the case of Burma before the UN Security Council, as requested by an international campaign and by a report drafted by the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel and Nobel Peace Laureate and South African Archbishop, Desmond Tutu.

The ILO was seeking guarantees from Yangon that it will do away with forced labour and collaborate with its representatives but the junta's response has been far from co-operative. The ILO delegation can no longer leave the capital and it has been the victim of defamation campaigns for months, like that spearheaded by the pro-government United Solidarity and Development Association. This movement held mass rallies condemning the ILO and urging the authorities to leave it. Western diplomats said that in recent months, the ILO representative in Yangon received several death threats. Now they have stopped but the authorities never investigated them.

Yangon is looking for political backing from Asian states but the response has been that no campaign can be organised in favour of Yangon unless the junta makes some concessions first. China, Japan and most ASEAN states are not in favour of Yangon's decision to withdraw from the ILO.  Privately, all have advised the junta to remain. A Chinese official from the Labour Ministry said "In the past China has supported Burma at the ILO, but in recent times we have told them to collaborate with it".

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