ILO renews watchdog pact with Myanmar

Myanmar’s military government has renewed for a year an agreement allowing the U.N. to monitor complaints of forced labor, the state-controlled press reported Wednesday.

The move comes despite the U.N. International Labor Organization adopting a resolution in November saying it was “deeply concerned” that Myanmar still uses forced labor in infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines and imprisons people who claim to have been used as laborers.

The renewal was signed Tuesday during a visit by ILO Executive Director Kari Tapiola at the administrative capital of Naypyitaw, the Myanmar-language Myanma Ahlin newspaper reported. It was the third renewal since the agreement was established in 2007.

Besides meeting government officials, Tapiola is due to meet labor activists, said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information.

The ILO office in Yangon was unable to confirm the signing because all responsible officials were out of town, said a receptionist who answered the phone.

The Geneva-based agency has been investigating Myanmar’s use of forced labor since 1998. The allegations have deepened international criticism of the regime over its suppression of democracy and rights abuses.

Myanmar says it is trying to eliminate forced labor and recognizes the right of its citizens to make complaints on the subject without fear of punishment. The ILO resolution acknowledged that the country was cooperating regarding complaints.

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