This story was written by the ILO Newsroom For official ILO statements and speeches, please visit our “Statements and Speeches” section.

ILO Myanmar Commission of Inquiry finds far-reaching violations of freedom of association and forced labour Conventions

The Commission of Inquiry urges the Myanmar military authorities to immediately cease all forms of violence, torture and other inhumane treatment against trade unionists, and to end all forms of forced or compulsory labour.

Press release | Geneva, Switzerland | 04 October 2023
Naypyidaw city in Myanmar © AFP
GENEVA (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization’s Commission of Inquiry for Myanmar, has concluded that the actions taken by the military authorities since February 2021 have resulted in far-reaching restrictions on the exercise of basic civil liberties and trade union rights, as well as in the incapacity of trade unionists to engage in trade union activities.

Such actions violate Myanmar's obligations under the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No.87).

The Commission also found that Myanmar did not comply with its obligations under the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29), since the military continues to exact different types of forced labour in the context of armed conflict. It also said there is a lack of adequate enforcement of the prohibition of forced or compulsory labour.

Its report urged the Myanmar military authorities to take “immediate action, so as to stop egregious violations of the two Conventions and prevent further abuses.”

The Commission was established by the ILO Governing Body in March 2022, following the takeover by the Myanmar military authorities in February 2021 and the military’s suppression of pro-democracy protests.

It was tasked with assessing reports of violence against trade union leaders, severe and repeated violations of basic civil liberties and a resurgence of forced labour.

The three independent experts who conducted the inquiry gathered written submissions from various entities and had direct contacts with persons affected by the complex political, human rights, humanitarian and economic crisis, as well as those having expert knowledge of the issues raised. While the Commission had no access to the country, it was able to obtain extensive information on the situation through these witnesses.

In accordance with Article 28 of the ILO Constitution, the report of the Commission of Inquiry sets out its findings, conclusions and recommendations with respect to the above matters.

The recommendations urge the military authorities to immediately cease all forms of violence, torture and other inhumane treatment against trade union leaders and members; to release and withdraw all criminal charges against trade unionists detained in relation to the exercise of their civil liberties and legitimate trade union activities; and to fully restore the protection of basic civil liberties suspended since the coup d’état. The recommendations also urge the military authorities to end the exaction of all forms of forced or compulsory labour by the army and its associated forces, as well as forced recruitment into the army.

The report sets out further recommendations to be implemented once the country returns to a situation of governance through democratic institutions and processes. It calls on all relevant parties to strive to achieve a peaceful transition to fully democratic rule.

The report of the Commission of Inquiry has been sent to the Permanent Mission of Myanmar in Geneva. Myanmar has three months to announce whether or not it accepts the recommendations; and if not, whether it proposes to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice.

This is the 14th Commission of Inquiry established in more than 100 years of ILO history to investigate allegations of serious non-observance of ratified international labour standards. Such Commissions represent the highest level of ILO supervisory mechanisms.