Daily News- November 08 - 2002- Friday

  • Myanmar, Colombia, Palestinian workers on agenda at ILO talks
  • Austria opens air link with Myanmar
  • Myanmar backs away from report of Red Cross probe of Shan rape claims
  • UN stresses need for human rights approach in Sudan and Burma

  • Myanmar, Colombia, Palestinian workers on agenda at ILO talks

    GENEVA, Nov 7 (AFP) - Myanmar, trade unions in Colombia and a fund for workers in the Palestinian territories are among the main topics to be addressed by the ILO's executive body that opened a two-week meeting Thursday.

    The governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will examine reports on developments in Myanmar to eradicate forced labour after measures announced by the ruling junta in recent years.

    Delegates are due to be presented reports by the ILO's liaison officer in Myanmar, Hong-Trang Perret-Nguyen, who took up her post on October 7, and by the interim liaison officer Leon de Riedmatten.

    The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said in a report last month that forced labour in the country continues and is increasing.

    The governing body, made up of representatives from 28 governments, 14 employers and 14 workers, meets three times a year. This meeting will last until November 22.

    It will also look at developments in Colombia where, an ILO statement said, reports indicated that about 100 trade unionists had been killed this year.Turning to Palestinian workers, the governing body will discuss progress on plans to set up a Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection.A donors' meeting is to be held in December.

    ILO Director-General Juan Somavia has submitted the idea of the fund to the UN, the European Union, Russia and the US, the "quartet" involved in the Middle East peace process. According to the ILO statement, "a number of donors have expressed interest in principle".

    Austria opens air link with Myanmar

    YANGON, Nov. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Austria has opened air link with Myanmar with an inaugural flight, made by the Lauda Air of the country from Vienna, landing at the Yangon International Airport on Wednesday.

    According to Thursday's state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, the Austrian airline's flight schedule involves the border town of Phuket of Thailand on its return trip from Yangon.

    The Lauda Air Luftfahrt AG will operate once a week Vienna-Yangon-Phuket-Vienna regular flight, leaving Vienna on Tuesday and reaching Yangon on Wednesday morning.

    It uses B767-300 aircraft as carrier which has a seating capacity of 244. Meanwhile, aimed at attracting more foreign tourists in the country, the Myanmar authorities will grant visas-on-arrival to any individual arriving at the Yangon International Airport on flights operated by the Lauda Air, according to an earlier official report.

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    Myanmar backs away from report of Red Cross probe of Shan rape claims

    YANGON, Nov 8 (AFP) - Myanmar has stepped back from an earlier announcement the Red Cross has begun investigating allegations that the military junta used rape as a weapon of war against ethnic Shan women.

    In a statement seen Friday, the junta said there was "a slight misinterpretation" of the activities of a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

    ICRC working procedure does not allow for teams to go into controversial areas to investigate claims, spokesman Colonel Hla Min said in a statement.Instead, the team "will carry out a systematic program to establish contact with local authorities and the civilian population to further develop ICRC's permanent presence and assistance in those areas."

    Earlier this week, in a new bid to clear itself of the allegations, the junta announced the ICRC left the capital to probe claims detailed in a report by two Thailand-based Shan women's groups.The Red Cross quickly denied their team had begun investigations.

    "We are not carrying out an inquiry," Red Cross spokeswoman Kim Gordon-Bates said in Geneva. "Under the traditional ICRC mandate, we have an ongoing aid and protection program for people in the region."

    Gordon-Bates noted that investigating claims of human rights violations would not fall under the Red Cross's mandate.

    The Thai study, released in May, documented 625 sex attacks on Shan women and girls by Myanmar soldiers. It drew international outrage and has been repeatedly rejected by the Yangon junta.

    The regime last month asked visiting UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to go to Shan state to investigate the charges but he declined, citing time constraints.He travelled instead to northern Thailand in late October after completing his two-week trip to Myanmar to speak to the report's authors, and left members of his team there to continue studying the issue.

    Hla Min said Pinheiro had recommended during his visit, where he met with top junta leaders as well as democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, that the ICRC investigate the rape allegations.

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    UN stresses need for human rights approach in Sudan and Burma

    Source : DeHavilland Information Services(UK)

    The United Nations Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning continued its dialogue with experts from the Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situations in Burma and Sudan and stressed the crucial necessity of promoting a human rights-based approach when building a sustainable future.

    Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan welcomed the Machakos Protocol, as well as the resumption of peace talks on October 14th.

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