ITUC OnLine – April 10, 2007

Brussels, 10 April 2007 (ITUC Online): Continuous pressure on the Burmese military regime, support for ILO efforts to end forced labour in the country and renewed trade union action against investments in and trade with Burma are the key decisions of an international trade union Conference on Democracy for Burma, held in Kathmandu (Nepal) on 3-4 April 2007. The meeting, the fourth of its kind, was organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and brought together over 70 delegates from 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America. It was hosted by the ITUC’s three affiliates in the country, NTUC, GEFONT and DECONT, with the support of the ITUC’s Asian and Pacific Regional Organisation, APRO.

In a five-page statement adopted by the Conference and containing over 30 items for action, participants called on the regime to engage in genuine dialogue with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the ethnic nationalities’ and to implement all the recommendations of an ILO Commission of Inquiry which in 1998 had demanded the junta immediately end the use of forced labour and prosecute those responsible for this crime against humanity. The Conference also called for the release of NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political and trade union prisoners, including FTUB leader Myo Aung Thant.

Several of the Conference’s conclusions addressed the need to support the independent Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB), which has associated organisation with the ITUC. The Conference called on ITUC affiliates and Global Union Federations (GUF’s) to provide political and financial support to and solidarity with the FTUB, including by sending solidarity union missions to Burma’s border areas. It also urged them to defend the FTUB and its leaders against false accusations of terrorism launched regularly against it by the military regime and support the FTUB’s efforts to establish independent and free trade unions in Burma.

It also called on them to assist to organise and support migrant workers and refugees from Burma, so as to ensure that their rights under domestic and international law are respected and protected. The Conference paid particular attention to the situation of women workers in Burma. It noted that many women are victims of forced labour and other grave violations of  human rights, including raped used as a weapon of war by the Burmese military. It stressed the need to ensure the participation of women workers of Burma in the relevant ITUC campaign and educational activities.

The Conference examined recent developments at the United Nations and urged the ITUC to pursue its campaign aimed at the adoption of a resolution on Burma by the UN Security Council. It also called on the ITUC to work with inter-governmental bodies and members of parliament to establish parliamentary caucuses on Burma and, as a priority, to establish such a group in the South Asian region (SAARC).

The Conference also urged all governments to refuse recognition of the “National Convention” process and the illegitimate Constitution prepared by the regime and called the international community to give political support instead to efforts by the democratic opposition movement, including the NCGUB Government-in-Exile, the FTUB, the NCUB and others to promote the democratic federal constitution and to assist Burma’s democratic opposition and trade union movement in their effort to build the conditions for democracy. It also called on them to promote dialogue on Burma within governments and inter-governmental bodies, including the EU , ASEAN , ASEM and SAARC with the purpose of convincing the military regime to engage in a genuine political time-bound dialogue with all interested parties including the ethnic nationalities and the National League for Democracy, as an indispensable condition for the establishment of the rule of law and genuine democracy.

It also urged European governments to strengthen the EU Common Position on Burma by inter alia including the companies and sectors still missing from the existing list of Burmese companies with which it is forbidden to trade.

Click here for the full text of the Final Declaration of the Kathmandu.