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04RANGOON676 2004-05-27 03:47:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rangoon
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000676 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2014


Classified By: COM Carmen Martinez for Reasons 1.4 (B,D)

1. (C) Summary: ILO's man in Rangoon briefed diplomats on
ambiguous news from Burma's Supreme Court, increased forced
labor reports, and the GOB's inadequate responses. All of
these issues will be discussed in Geneva on June 5th in the
context of the ILO's postponed timetable for a Plan of Action
for Burma. At this point we think it premature to support
resuming the Plan. End summary.

Guilty, But Not as Charged

2. (C) The ILO's Liaison Officer Richard Horsey briefed the
Rangoon diplomatic community, including the COM, on May 25th
on a wide array of labor and human rights issues. On the
matter of the three individuals sentenced for, among other
things, having in their possession public ILO documents and a
ILO business card (reftel), Mr. Horsey indicated that the ILO
was not at all pleased by the special two-judge Supreme Court
panel's recent decision to uphold the conviction but reduce
the sentences. He said that the decision, of which he'd only
seen an informal version, did not specifically reject the
lower court's identification of the possession of ILO
materials as treasonous. He also said there was concern
because the Panel's decision identified the Thailand-based
Free Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB) as a treasonous
organization and thus, by extension, all those who contacted
the FTUB could be guilty of treason or conspiracy. Horsey
noted that the head of the FTUB, U Maung Maung (son of NLD
Central Executive Committee member Nyunt Wei), had previously
been found guilty of treason in absentia and that the court
was citing contact of any kind with U Maung Maung as

3. (C) Mr. Horsey said that he and the ILO
facilitator-designate in Burma, Mr. Leon de Reidmatten, had
re-visited on May 25th the three convicts in Insein Prison.
The prisoners reported that they had not been given access to
their lawyers to request an appeal. (Note: under Burmese law
they can appeal their case to the full Supreme Court and then
to the head of state.) Horsey said the ILO planned to
contact the attorneys forthwith to pass on this request.

Complaints Up, Responses Down

4. (C) Turning to broader ILO operations in Burma, Mr. Horsey
said that ILO officials could travel freely and had regular
and cordial meetings with the Labor Minister U Tin Win. He
said that he was encouraged by the increasing number of
incident reports that individuals were filing with the ILO
office in Rangoon. These allegations were coming in mostly
from the Rangoon area, but also from other corners of the
country, and were being made by activists but also by
villagers. The ILO had received about 40 reports since
January 2004, with 30 coming since March (following the
initial news of death penalty sentences for the ILO
contacts). Mr. Horsey said that after initial review he had
passed 22 of these cases onto the GOB for action.
Encouragingly, Horsey reported, the GOB had taken rapid and
effective action on the first few cases -- in two cases
returning child soldiers to their families and in another
case firing a local official overseeing forced labor.
However, even while the GOB was taking appropriate action, in
its official replies to the ILO the GOB has thus far denied
finding any evidence to back up the complaints.

5. (C) After its initial burst of activity, the GOB has been
less responsive on more recent cases. Horsey said he had
heard no response on any of the last 15 allegations forwarded
for action. Horsey hypothesized that this could be an honest
oversight, due to a sore lack of investigative capacity.
However, he admitted he had no way to know for sure.

Whither the Plan of Action?

6. (C) Mr. Horsey canvassed the assembled diplomats (from the
UK, Italy, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, South Korea,
and the United States) regarding the ILO Applications
Committee's discussion in Geneva on June 5th of Burma and its
postponed Plan of Action. None actively supported a quick
reinstatement of the Plan's timetable. The Chief of Mission
stressed that there were few signs of positive action by the
GOB since the last deliberation in March and the recent
decline in the quantity and quality of the GOB response to
complaints was cause for caution, as the GOB would read
implementation of the plan of action now as blessing their
response (or lack thereof). Mr. Horsey agreed, but said the
ILO would be encouraged if, by June 5th, the GOB publicly
announced that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the
appeals of the three convicted for their ILO ties.
Ultimately, he said, the ILO would not be satisfied unless
the GOB released the two individuals now convicted of
conspiracy and reduced further the sentence of the individual
convicted of treason to one of possession of an illegal
satellite phone.

Comment: No Goodwill, No Support

7. (C) Given the ILO rep's less than upbeat briefing, it
seems premature to discuss a return to the proposed timetable
for implementing the Plan of Action. Though it's good news
that people feel more comfortable to approach the ILO with
complaints, the GOB still appears to lack commitment to
addressing this issue. Resolving complaints quietly is not
the same as publicly admitting a case of forced labor and
prosecuting the offender. Also, as the ILO here rightly
points out, the cases of the ILO contacts are far from
satisfactorily resolved. Though the courts, and thus the
SPDC, have moved off their untenable death sentence position,
they are still poised to criminalize contact with the primary
representative of Burma's disbanded labor unions and leave
unresolved the legal status of contact with the ILO. End