Friday, 11 July 2008

ILO calls for Release of Six Burmese Activists

The Irrawaddy News

The International Labour Organization on Friday called for the release of six imprisoned Burmese labor activists who were arrested for participating in a May Day ceremony in 2007.

The activists identified by the ILO, who were sentenced in September 2007, are Thurein Aung, Kyaw Kyaw, Wai Lin, Nyi Nyi Zaw, Shwe Joe and Aung Naing Tun.

They were each sentenced to at least 20 years imprisonment, according to their Rangoon lawyer, Khin Maung Shein. The lawyer said, however, he believes Shwe Joe and one other activist have been released already.

They were arrested for taking part in a May Day ceremony which was an expression of workers’ rights and freedom of speech.

The ILO said international trade union rights call for workers and labor organizations to enjoy freedom of opinion, speech and the right to assemble.

According to the ILO, the Supreme Court of Burma reportedly has denied the six activists’ appeals, running counter to requests by the ILO and the International Labour Conference which have called for their release.

Kari Tapiola, the ILO executive director for the Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work office, said, “It was our hope that their appeals to the Supreme Court would result in the quashing of their sentences and their immediate release. This remains a priority for the ILO, and the government is strongly urged to review the situation in order to secure an early release of the persons concerned.”

“It would have been hoped that in view of the Burmese government’s publicly expressed intent to take the country into general elections in 2010, that fundamental freedom of association rights would be respected,” Tapiola said.

Bo Kyi, the joint secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, said prominent labor activist Su Su Nway, who received the John Humphrey Freedom Award in 2006, is among the political prisoners who suffer from lack of medical services.

Su Su Nway, a member of the National League for Democracy, is well-known for her work on behalf of victims of forced labor and for farmers whose land has been confiscated by government authorities.

Su Su Nway has been suffering from a serious heart disease. Reports said she was recently placed in solitary confinement after asking prison authorities for medical care.

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