UN in Myanmar forced labour warning
Report says military rulers may adopt unfair means for post-cyclone reconstruction.
Last Modified: 31 May 2008 21:55 GMT
An estimated 2.4 million people remain  homeless and hungry in the aftermath of the cyclone [AFP]

The UN labour agency says Myanmar's military government may increasingly use forced labour in the reconstruction of the cyclone-devastated country.
In a report, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) called on donors and aid agencies to stay vigilant against any exploitation by the country's rulers.
The government and aid agencies should be "conscious of the increased risk of incidences of forced labour, child labour, human trafficking and migrant labour" in the efforts to rebuild the country, a report by the ILO's liaison officer in Myanmar said.

The report by Steve Marshall was discussed on Saturday by a key committee of the ILO, at its annual conference being held in Geneva.


An estimated 2.4 million people remain homeless and hungry from the May 2-3 cyclone, which left at least 134,000 people dead or missing.


Appeal to rulers


The committee said it hoped the reconstruction work is done without the use of forced labour. It urged the military government to increase efforts to implement a complaint mechanism the ILO set up with the junta in February 2007.


The mechanism allows victims of forced labour to submit complaints to the UN agency with the guarantee that "no retaliatory action" be taken against them.


"The exaction of forced labour continued to be widespread particularly by the army," the ILO committee said in its conclusions, adding that the recruitment of children into the army was a major concern.


The conclusions are expected to be formally adopted by the ILO conference on June 13.


"At this stage we have not received any complaints of the use of forced labour or the use of child labour in regard to the cyclone reconstruction activity," Marshall said.


But "in any disaster of this kind, the risk of abuses of that nature increases", he told The Associated Press, adding that displaced people and women and children who have lost their families are particularly vulnerable.


"The risk is very high," Marshall said.

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