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Forced Labor in Burma

Forced Labor in Burma

I appreciated the article "With Democracy Stifled in Burma, US Joins Its Asian Allies With Soft Reproach," June 17.

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However, I was taken aback by statements made by former United States Ambassador William Brown to the effect that forced labor has decreased in ethnic-nationality areas where the military State Law and Order Reconciliation Council (SLORC) is in control, and that forced labor in American business projects also has been addressed.

His statements were immediately refuted by the Karen National Union, one of the ethnic nationalities whose people are currently the victims of forced labor and other human rights abuses resulting from the Unocal Corp.'s gas pipeline project. Mr. Brown's remarks cast grave doubt on his ability to be objective.

A new report entitled "Total Denial," by two Thailand-based human rights groups, has chronicled a multitude of abuses, including the forced labor of children working on the pipeline project. Yozo Yokota, a former human rights expert on Burma for the United Nations, also has repeatedly reported that forced labor is especially rampant in military controlled ethnic-nationality areas and used on gas pipelines.

Brown has a responsibility to the American people to substantiate the basis for such claims, since they are contradictory to reports by a variety of human rights organizations.

Pamela Wellner

Berkeley, Calif.

Coordinator, Free Burma:

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No Petro-dollars for SLORC

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