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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Bureau of International Labor Affairs

ILAB Press Release: New Labor Department Report Shows No Improvement In Worker Rights In Burma [03/13/2000]

For more information call: (202) 219-6373 X 4

The Labor Department's new study updating its 1998 report on labor practices in Burma indicates no meaningful improvement in fostering worker rights. This second report finds that forced labor, including child labor and forced relocation, are still widespread and that freedom of association and free collective bargaining are virtually nonexistent in Burma.

"The worker abuses in Burma are symptomatic of the current regime's gross disregard for human rights," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said. "The Administration has remained constant in its vision of a just world built on such universal principles as the dignity of work and the right of all people to improve their lot and support their families. This latest report on labor practices in Burma reinforces our position that the international community must continue to push for a democratic transition in that country.

"As President Clinton noted in his address before the ILO last June, `Today, one member State, Burma, stands in defiance of the ILO's most fundamental values and most serious findings.`

"I will continue to urge the ILO to keep Burma as a priority item on its agenda for action. Likewise, I will recommend that the overall international community maintain a similar focus on Burma."

The Labor Department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs prepared the update, 2000 Report on Labor Practices in Burma, at the behest of Congress. The conclusions of the report include the following:

˜ Forced labor is used with impunity and apparently on a widespread basis on such work as construction of roads, dykes, canals, land development, infrastructure to support tourism, in military operations and for commercial ventures of the military. ˜ A large number of villagers, particularly ethnic minorities, are subject to forced relocation, which seems to go hand in hand with forced labor.˜ The Government of Burma has failed to change laws or practices to guarantee freedom of association and collective bargaining.˜ Worker rights organizations are forced to operate underground and are under constant surveillance by the police and the military.˜ Abusive child labor is not uncommon and there are even reports that children are drafted as soldiers and used as human mine sweepers and shields. The government's apparent lack of commitment for primary education contributes to exploitative child labor.˜ The international community, led by the U.S. and the International Labor Organization, continued to push for a transition to democratic rule through a variety of measures such as economic and political sanctions, withdrawal of aid, an arms embargo and curtailment of investment in Burma.

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs based its findings on reports and information compiled from the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, the International Labor Organization and other international bodies, non-governmental organizations working in Burma, trade unions, private business, media and other sources. In addition, the bureau requested submissions from the public.

The ILO's Governing Body is scheduled to consider recommendations for further action against Burma the week of March 27. The recommendations will be submitted to the full ILO for action in June.

The report is on the Web at: Also, hard copies may be ordered from the bureau's Office of Foreign Relations by telephone at (202) 219-7616 or by e-mail at

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Bureau of International Labor Affairs
March 13, 2000
Media Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number