Following is an editorial cut from the the Washington Post. November 26, 2000.
Washington Post Story
A Rebuke to Forced Labor
Sunday, November 26, 2000; Page B06
NOT IN 81 years had the International Labor Organization imposed such sanctions; but Burma is a special case. The ILO, a United Nations arm in
which unions, businesses and governments participate, found that the Asian nation also known as Myanmar has so flagrantly violated international
norms that sanctions had to be imposed. In particular, its ruling generals were found guilty of encouraging forced and slave labor in "a culture of
Burma is a special case in part because its dictators cannot even pretend to reflect the will of their people. In 1990, they permitted a national election. A
pro-democracy party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma's hero of independence, won four out of five parliamentary seats. But parliament never met;
the generals refused to accept the results. Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1991, is under house arrest; most of her party colleagues are in
prison. The generals grow more corrupt while Burma grows ever poorer.
The ILO sanctions approved last week are, as AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said, "only a starting point." Nations are "urged to halt any aid, trade or
relationship that helps Burmese leaders remain in power," he said. The United States already has imposed restrictions on investment, but that hasn't stopped
companies such as Unocal from mounting major efforts in the country. Nor has it prevented trade, much of which enriches only the generals.
Companies that do business in Burma now more than ever will have to explain themselves. So will nations that sought to water down the ILO action,
including fellow autocracies like Malaysia and China and, more surprisingly, democracies like India and Japan. Those nations, though, found
themselves very much in the minority, just as Burma finds itself more isolated than ever.