Myanmar villagers forced to clear landmines (Myanmar)

Kathmandu - Despite signing a pact that pledges not to use forced labour, Myanmar's military junta is continuing to compel villagers to clear land mines, a Myanmar trade union said.


The Federation of Trade Unions Kawthoolei, an exiled Myanmarese labour group operating from Thailand, said people of five villages in Toungoo district were forced to clear a strip of road from Kler La to Baw Ga Li in February.

Troops from the Kler La military base ordered the villagers of Kaw Thay Der, Klay Soe Kee, Ler Ko, Kler la and Kaw Soe Koh to undertake the hazardous job, the union said in the report released this week.

Though the villagers were afraid of land mines, they had to execute the order, it said.

The villagers were to go ahead of trucks carrying army rations to clear the road. While villagers were clearing land mines between Tha Pan and the Htee Lone river, a bomb exploded killing two villagers.

In 2006 alone, four people were killed by land mines while 13 were injured.

In 2006, the report said 136 people had been shot to death in Toungoo, 16 in Nyaung-lay-bin, 11 in Papun and three in Doo-pla-ya.

Hundreds were arrested and security forces torched farms, orchards and houses.

The report comes after a trade union meet on Myanmar held in Kathmandu this week condemned the repression of trade union activities in Myanmar.

"Labour activists, family members, friends and associates are commonly arrested, tortured and sentenced to heavy prison terms," the Burma Conference declaration said.

Trade unions are collecting reports of forced labour practised by the junta to table them before the International Labour Organisation, which in turn will raise the issue of the violation of the Forced Labour Convention at the International Court of Justice.

Myanmar has been under the control of the military since 1988, when an army general, Gen Saw seized control of the government.

Though in 1990 the junta allowed the first multi-party election in three decades, it has refused to hand over power to the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition coalition that won a landslide victory.

NLD leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest while 34 of her MPs are in exile and 13 in prison.

Two were assassinated outside Myanmar and over 100 MPs living in Myanmar were forced to resign.

Von: 08.04.2007

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