Cecilia Brighi - CISL- intervento a Conferenza OIL 2005





Thank you chair,


The world is aware, since long time, that the people of Burma are suffering under one of the world's most brutal and repressive regimes. Business as usual cannot continue.


You know that the basis of forced labour lays in the economic structure of this criminal- forced labour economy.

The junta continues to heavily control and command Burmese economy, failing to address fundamental problems, such as a highly centralized decision-making structure; substantial restrictions on private commercial activity; a disproportionate expenditure in the military sector, which reaches over  49.9% of the public expenditure, so that in the last ten years it has become the largest army in South East Asia.

 Corruption puts Burma at the 142nd place  in a list of 145 countries.


Thanks to these conditions, Burma can remain the first producer of methamphetamine in the world and the second producer of opium, after Afghanistan. In this connection the  garment and textile sector is the most important, for money laundering  and clandestine export of drug, thanks to the fact that the drug lords, connected to the junta  are the main investors in this sector.


You know that it is impossible to do business without producing profits for the junta. You know that the law on state owned enterprises of 1989, gives the junta and the army the right  to control all the key economic sectors.  You know that the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and its branch:  the  Myanmar Economic Corporation detain the monopoly of productive economy.  The activities of UMEH and MEC are intended mainly to build the military's resource base – enabling privileged economic treatment of army officers and their families.


 You know that the junta has promoted  companies in the gas sector, turism, banks gems, real estate, and logging. Joint ventures become the main logistics and economic support for the military junta. As an example, in March 2004, EU's FDI represented 30.37 %  of the total FDI, mostly investing in Oil & Gas sector (32.37% of Total FDI in Burma), which is the major funding for the military regime, which export was about 986.5 $/million.

In 2003/04, Burma's export was 2431.49 million US dollar, among them garment export only, was 334.76 $/million (13.76% of total export) and EU's garment import from Burma share was about 66%, so it was about 220 $/m in 2003/04.

 As of March 2004, five ASEAN countries (Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia & Philippines) are investing in Burma, and have committed US$ 3933.84 million in 170 projects, realizing 51.08% of the total permitted amount of FDI.


The junta's get-rich-quick economic plans, are based on forced labour perpetuation, brutal exploitation of workers, and  more over are devastating Burma's environment, damaging the regional ecological balance, as well as the country's long-term economic prospects.


 You know that fifteen years of constructive engagement with the regime and the threats of  political sanctions have failed to bring about a single democratic reform, aimed at the end of forced labour. This approach has not managed to shake the core power of the junta, thus impeding any real commitment to eradicate forced labor. This situation has to be stopped.


 The fact that still today we are here to discuss on violation of Convention 29, shows the uncompromising nature of the regime, the connection between the military’s economic base and its political support.

Only a coordinated international action, that tackle the economic power of the junta, can really bring effective changes.

 It is time that the ILO constituents, the international Financial Institutions, including the ADB, the Great Mekong Subregion and the  connected Trade  and Investment Flagship Program, take effective measures, as regards any projects implying direct or indirect involvement with the Burmese state and military companies.

Such request is not limited to International Financial Institutions, but targets also those international organizations and NGOs, which maintain any form of economic relations with the junta. They should reconsider any cooperation they may engage in, with Burma and assess and report to the ILO, on the effects of any forms of material or financial assistance to such government, which could directly or indirectly support the practice of forced labor.


 Governments, employers and workers – should commit themselves to  review, their relations with Burma and take  suitable measures, be it legislative, administrative or judicial, including a recourse to International Court of Justice, as a further mean to ensure that the junta cannot take advantage of such relations to continue or extend the system of forced labour.


We ask them to ensure that no foreign direct or indirect investment, imports from or exports to Burma, grants, loans or credits to  State or military-owned enterprises, including those operated by international private equity funds, contribute directly or indirectly to such a continuation or extension of forced labor.


More over, we appeal once again to governments and the EU to implement art XX of the GATT, which refers to measures relating to the protection of human health and measures and to the product of prison labour. It is more than compatible for governments to take trade measures against the government of Burma without fear of ill effect.


Finally we call on all those governments and companies which not withstanding such harsh reality, continue to close their eyes in the name of business, to take a stand to  contribute  to the necessary change, which will pave the way for democracy development and a stable economy in which safely invest.