ICFTU sends radio message to striking workers at Namtu silver mine

ICFTU ONLINE..., 039/980211/JK, 11 February 1998

Brussels, February 11, 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): The ICFTU today addressed a message of solidarity by radio to 3,000 workers on strike at the Namtu Silver Mine, in the northern Shan State of Burma. The workers, supported by up to 5,000 relatives, went on strike on 2 February to demand rice at subsidised prices, wage rises for underground workers, medical care, a six-day working week and the repair of their dilapidated dormitories. The army quickly stepped in when the work stoppage erupted. A meeting between 21 workers' representatives and the local administration was chaired by the Commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 324.

Up to sixty similar army units were identified last November by the ICFTU during special hearings on forced labour in Burma held at the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO), a specialised UN agency. Several LIB commanding officers were listed by name and rank and identified by the ICFTU as responsible for grave human rights' violations, such as arbitrary detention, torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, looting and village destruction, all committed within the context of forced labour on infrastructure and commercial projects controlled by the Tadmadaw, the country's armed forces. The report of the ILO Commission of Inquiry, which is currently investigating the issue in the region itself, is expected to be published next June.

The ICFTU's solidarity message to the Namtu miners was put on the air today by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio station which broadcasts from Oslo and is received in Burma. The DVB, on the air in Burmese and ethnic languages one half hour per day, has been in operation since 1992 and is mainly supported by the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish Governments.

In its message, the ICFTU assured the striking miners and their families of its fullest support for their legitimate demands. The ICFTU, which represents 125 million unionised workers world-wide, stated it was holding the military fully responsible for the physical and psychological integrity of the striking workers and their families and, in particular, of the 21-strong Workers' Committee negotiating with management and the authorities.

Together with the Federation of Trade Unions—Burma (FTUB), operating underground inside Burma as well as from neighbouring countries, the ICFTU has monitored trade union and other human rights in Burma since 1991.