Published: 14/11/2010

The IUF welcomes the release of Aung San Suu Kyi on 13 November after seven years of house arrest and calls for sanctions on Burma to remain as long as the repression of basic trade union, worker and human rights continues.

The release of the pro-democracy leader, who has spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention, came a week after sham elections were held under a new Constitution that reserves 25% of parliamentary seats for the military and denies the most basic democratic rights.

While Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, over 2,000 political prisoners remain in detention. This includes pro-democracy student activists, Buddhist monks and trade unionists arrested under a vast array of repressive laws, including the infamous Order 2/88 that bans any activity of five persons or more. Central to this repressive regime is the ban on independent trade unions first imposed in 1988 and which continues today despite the demands of the ITUC, the global union federations, and the ILO.

For the past 19 years the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) has been declared an illegal organization by the military government and FTUB members face arrest and imprisonment for their advocacy of worker and trade union rights. In some cases trade unionists have been charged with treason, resulting in the death penalty.

The denial of basic trade union and worker rights and the widespread, systematic use of forced labour prompted the ILO to invoke sanctions on Burma in November 2000 under Article 33 of the ILO constitution for the first time in the organization’s history.

Shortly after her release on Saturday, Aung San Suu Kyi denounced continued political repression and the denial of freedom of speech in Burma. The denial of free speech and freedom of association, the imprisonment of trade unionists, and the ongoing use of forced labour is precisely why sanctions on Burma must be maintained and rigorously enforced.