Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988

For 26 years Burma was a single-party, Socialist dictatorship.
In a popular, essentially nonviolent uprising unprecedented in
the nation's history, millions of Burmese demanded in August
and September 1988 that the regime step down in favor of a
democratic system. On September 18-19, the old leadership
reasserted control by a military takeover which lethally
suppressed peaceful demonstrators all over Burma and returned
the nation to formal military rule.
After independence from the British in 1948, Burma embarked on
a path of national development with an essentially democratic
political system. Factionalism, insurgencies, and economic
problems led to a military coup in 1962, headed by General Ne
Win. The 1974 Constitution established the Burma Socialist
Program Party (BSPP) as the sole legal political party, with
the authority to "lead the state." Personnel for government
and party positions were drawn largely from the military, the
tool by which Ne Win ran and controlled the nation.
Following demonstrations by students and workers in June 1988
protesting police brutality, repression of political rights,
and the Government's mishandling of Burma's economy, the
authorities closed the campuses and police drove trucks into a
group of high school student demonstrators, killing several.
ht this point, the demonstrations escalated into
antigovernment riots. Ne Win abruptly resigned the BSPP
chairmanship on July 23. The choice of U Sein Lwin, widely
regarded as responsible for numerous deaths of protesters
during earlier demonstrations, as his successor touched off
new antigovernment demonstrations. Efforts to suppress them
by lethal force provoked even larger-scale demonstrations,
forcing Sein Lwin's resignation after only 17 days in office.
Sein Lwin was succeeded by Dr. Maung Maung, a moderate and
respected civilian. Confronted by continuing demonstrations.
Dr. Maung Maung pledged a national referendum for a multiparty
system to be followed by elections if the referendum passed.
Popular distrust of the Government, however, resulted in a
rejection of this concession and continuing demonstrations and
strikes, which brought the country to a standstill. Law and
order also deteriorated as the Government withdrew all police
from the cities and concurrently released large numbers of
prisoners from the nation's jails. The army then swept Dr.
Maung Maung aside and formally took power. Army loyalties to
Ne Win remain strong and most observers see the former ruler's
hand behind the military takeover and subsequent forceful
repression of demonstrators. As it suppressed opposition by
massive application of force, the military leadership vowed
its intention to relinquish power shortly and to hold
multiparty elections; however, that did not happen. A large
number of parties have registered to contest the elections,
including the successor of the BSPP, the National Unity Party.
Burma has fought various insurgencies since independence.
Some of the ethnically based insurgents are fighting for a
measure of autonomy, if no longer for outright independence,
and against what they perceive to be domination by the
majority ethnic group, the Burmans. But most insurgent groups
are no more than narcotics syndicates with private armies.
The Burma Communist Party, the only insurgent group with
stated political objectives based in ideology, also receives
most of its revenue from drug trafficking. Though these
groups have engaged only in small-scale fighting in their own
areas on Burma's borders in recent years, the Government used
their continued existence to justify in part the need for
continued authoritarian rule, including the operation of an
extensive security apparatus.
Over the last 26 years, Ne Win's "Road to Socialism" reduced
what was once the richest country in Southeast Asia to one
designated by the United Nations as a "least developed
country." As Burma began to experience political upheaval in
1988, its official economy was already staggering; the regime
was beginning to renege on foreign debt, had virtually no
foreign exchange reserves, and was dependent primarily on
foreign aid--now halted due to the political upheavals--to
remain solvent. Burmese consumers relied on a thriving black
market, which the regime had been forced to tolerate, for many
goods the official economy was incapable of supplying in
adequate quantity. Aware of popular discontent with the
economy, Ne Win in August 1987 promised badly needed economic
reform, but no meaningful reform was implemented.
The already poor human rights situation in Burma worsened
significantly during 1988, as a result of regime efforts to
quell its aroused population. Negative developments have
included the killing of peaceful demonstrators, credible
reports of arbitrary arrest and torture, compulsory labor, and
the disappearance of political detainees.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political Killing
Although Burmese law prohibits summary executions and Buddhist
tenets stress the sanctity of life, 1988 saw large-scale
indiscriminate killings of Burmese citizens by the regime's
security forces. Official versions of these incidents were
widely at variance with numerous eyewitness accounts by
foreign diplomats, journalists, and other observers. The
regime admitted that in March 41 student demonstrators died by
suffocation after being forced by police into an overcrowded
paddy wagon. Government efforts to cover up this incident
failed in the face of eyewitness accounts, photographs, and
public pressures. Other students were killed or wounded by
police or died in jail during the March disturbances, but
government secrecy makes it impossible to arrive at a reliable
estimate of casualties. Some responsible observers place the
March death toll in the hundreds.
Observers estimate that in Rangoon several hundred were killed
by police during antigovernment riots in June, although again
it is impossible to confirm these figures. In one instance,
police drove three trucks into a group of peacefully
demonstrating high school students, killing four or five.
Enraged crowds killed seven policemen in, retaliation. During
the March and June riots, students and workers destroyed some
Government property. During August 8-13, troops opened fire
on peaceful, unarmed citizens protesting Sein Lwin's ascension
to power. Numerous eyewitness accounts confirm that troops
chased and killed fleeing demonstrators and fired
indiscriminately at onlookers and into houses. On August 10
troops fired into a group of doctors, nurses, and others in
front of Rangoon General Hospital, killing or wounding several
doctors and nurses, who were pleading with troops to stop
shooting. Thirty minutes later, the same troops returned and
again opened fire. In other areas of Rangoon, eyewitnesses
report soldiers bayoneted female students and kicked the
bodies of teenage student victims. Four separate eyewitness
accounts of an August 10 incident in North Okkalapa, a working
class suburb of Rangoon, describe in detail how soldiers knelt
in formation and fired repeatedly at demonstrators in response
to an army captain's orders. The first casualties were five
or six teenage girls who carried flags and a photograph of
Burma's assassinated founding father, Aung San. All four
eyewitnesses reported large numbers of dead and wounded and
estimated several hundred casualties on the scene.
Eyewitnesses report similar incidents throughout Rangoon
during the August 8-13 period. Deaths probably numbered over
2,000, but actual numbers can never be known. In many cases
as soon as they finished firing, troops carted off victims for
surreptitious mass disposal in order to mask the extent of the
On September 19, troops throughout Burma opened fire without
warning on peaceful demonstrators protesting the military
takeover. In full sight of U.S. Embassy personnel, troops
fired from concealed positions at demonstrators in front of
the Embassy, killing at least two, one of whom was a vendor,
and wounding many others. In several instances, after
shooting people, soldiers refused to let Red Cross workers
come to the aid of the wounded, and in one case shot and
injured a Red Cross employee who attempted to do so. Residents
of Rangoon heard prolonged and repeated bursts of gunfire and
volleys throughout September 19 and 20 and were afterwards
told of numerous accounts of indiscriminate killings of men,
women, and children by troops. From eyewitness accounts of
shootings, body counts in the hospitals, and photographic
evidence, U.S. and other observers estimate possibly 1,000
people were killed in Rangoon during the September 19-21
period. Though the army's show of force succeeded in imposing
an uneasy quiet throughout Burma by September 22, sporadic
looting, mostly by desperately poor citizens, continued as of
early October. The army's response was to shoot looters on
sight. From August 25 to September 18 there was a period
during which troops and police withdrew from the streets of
Rangoon and other major cities and all government services
ceased. The population formed neighborhood watch committees
and local vigilante groups to maintain law and order. The
security situation was aggravated by large-scale releases of
prisoners from jails across the country. In some cases, the
vigilantes killed looters; in others they attacked security
personnel in retaliation for the deaths of civilians. Many of
the latter victims were beheaded. A rough estimate puts the
total number of these deaths at about 50. While the number
and the exact causes could not be determined by year's end,
there is credible evidence that some of the returned students
who fled Rangoon after the September 18 military takeover were
subsequently arrested and died while in military custody.
For security reasons, Burmese authorities did not allow U.S.
and other diplomats to travel to areas of heavy insurgent
activity. Therefore, U.S. officials were not able to gather
directly information about human rights practices of the
Burmese Government or of the insurgents in these areas.
Government-controlled media cite numerous examples of insurgent
violence that resulted in the deaths of civilians. Although
it cannot be confirmed, it is reasonable to believe there were
violations on both sides. The brutality inflicted by the army
on fellow Burmans in 1988 adds credence to reports over the
years of the military's severe mistreatment of ethnic
minorities, traditionally regarded by majority Burmans as
      b. Disappearance
The Government did not divulge the whereabouts of the large
numbers of persons detained following the March and June
disturbances. Bowing to mounting public pressure in August,
the Government released most of these detainees, although not
everyone arrested was accounted for. On August 24, Amnesty
International (AI) reported that on the basis of official
arrest and release figures over a period of several months,
between 842 and 1664 people are m^issing. Though it is not
possible to estimate how many, a number of demonstrators
rounded up during the August 8-13 and September 19-21 shootings
remain unaccounted for. The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon received
inquiries from various individuals or organizations outside
Burma about the whereabouts of Burmese and resident foreigners,
mostly South Asians, who were jailed or disappeared. In
virtually all cases, Burmese authorities did not reply to
Embassy requests for information.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the 1974 Constitution provides that punishment shall
not be in violation of human dignity, police and security
forces at times use psychological coercion and torture during
investigations in both criminal and political and security
cases. The Government officially denies that torture or
inhuman treatment is practiced. Prison conditions are poor,
due in part to Burma's poverty. While several recently
released, high profile, political prisoners reported that they
were not ill-treated, there are numerous accounts of
mistreatment of students jailed during the March and June
riots, including repeated but unconfirmed accusations that
several girls were raped by prison officials. After the
September 18 military takeover, many people reported being
verbally abused, slapped, and otherwise humiliated by troops.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There is no provision in Burmese law for a person in detention
to seek a judicial determination of the legality of his
detention. In serious cases involving national security, some
persons may not be formally charged but held under an
antisubversion act in indefinite detention without trial. In
less serious political and security cases, detention under the
act is nominally limited to 180 days, but this may be extended
with Cabinet approval. In practice, the term "crimes against
the State" is broadly applied. In common criminal cases,
police may detain suspects for up to 24 hours, after which a
court order must be sought from competent judicial authorities.
These renewable court orders authorize 14-day extensions of
the detention until charges are formally brought before a
court. Detainees are frequently held incommunicado during the
period of investigation and interrogation but normally are
allowed visitors thereafter.
During the March and June riots and the August 8-13 and
September 19-21 shootings, large numbers of antigovernment
demonstrators were rounded up by authorities and detained,
without being formally charged or brought to trial. By early
October, military authorities were still searching for and
detaining people involved in opposition activities. It is
difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the numbers detained
during the March-June period. Authorities arrested prominent
opposition leader Aung Gyi and 10 others July 20, including an
Associated Press correspondent, a Burmese citizen. The
Government announced they had been arrested to "protect the
State" and would face criminal charges and trial for
antigovernment activities. They were released August 25
during mounting public pressure for a change of government.
Refugees and other stateless persons are regarded as illegal
immigrants subject to arrest. If they cannot be repatriated
after serving sentences for illegal entry, they may be detained
indefinitely. Several hundred illegal immigrants from a number
of Asian countries previously under detention were released
and expatriated when the Government inexplicably opened most
of Burma's prisons during the week of August 21-27.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is not independent of the government leadership,
which can influence both verdict and sentence, particularly in
political and security cases. Influence, payments, and favors
are often factors in lower court decisions. Tight control
through party channels and the mandatory use of three-judge
panels tend to restrain judicial activism. At the same time,
lower court judges, being more easily swayed by local political
and financial pressures, are not always accountable to the
higher court. The legal code is based upon the British
colonial system of law, as modified and expanded by the
present Constitution and other legal measures imposed by the
Government. The Constitution provides for public trials in
most cases, and this practice is followed in common criminal
cases. In political and security cases, special judiciary
committees may be named by the government leadership. The
public normally is allowed to attend such trials. The burden
of proof is on the prosecution in both common criminal and
political and security cases. The accused has the right to
counsel in both types of cases, and legal counsel is provided
for indigent defendants faced with a possible sentence of 7
years or more. Normally, defendants can consult freely and
privately with their lawyers. The verdicts of civil,
security, and military courts may be appealed to the next
higher court up to the Council of State.
Following mass arrests of demonstrators in March, June, August,
and September, individuals were detained as far as can be
determined without being formally charged or brought before
judicial authorities.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
In political and security cases, security forces are not
subject to judicial procedures and usually enter homes without
warrants. In areas of insurgency, forced entry and warrantless
searches are carried out by government security forces and
rebel groups alike. It is widely believed that security
personnel selectively monitor private correspondence and
telephone calls. A well-developed system of neighborhood
informers reports on dissidents and criticism of the
Government. Following the September 18 military takeover, the
Government authorized soldiers to search private homes and
vehicles, during which many individual soldiers abused
civilians and stole money and valuables. In conmion criminal
cases, however, police officials are required to have a valid
search warrant or to be accompanied by a member of the local
People's Council at the time of search. Search warrants are
issued by local or state judges' committees.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and press in Burma is severely restricted.
The Constitution contains provisions for freedom of speech,
expression, and publication but stipulates that the exercise
of such freedoms should not be "contrary to the interest of
the working people and socialism." In practice, opposition
viewpoints and public criticism of the Government are not
tolerated. Anyone criticizing the Government's leadership in
public or private is subject to arrest.
The Government owns and operates the mass media in Burma,
including television, radio, and the six national newspapers
(now one). There are some private periodicals. Newspaper
editors are appointed by the Ministry of Information, and
editorials must be approved in advance. Journalists are
subject to strict guidelines as to what can be broadcast or
published, especially on domestic matters. International news
is subject to prior review and selection. Foreign shortwave
radio broadcasts are not jammed. Criticism of government
officials is not permitted in the press, although cartoons and
editorials will sometimes criticize local administration
indirectly. All forms of communications--domestic and
imported books and periodicals, stage plays, motion pictures,
and musical recordings—are subject to government control and
censorship. The Government monitors academic inquiry in the
social sciences.
For a brief period in August, the Government tolerated
relative press freedom in response to public pressures for
democracy. Buoyed by changed conditions, independent printers
started up a flurry of "instant" street corner publications.
This new press freedom ended abruptly with the September 18
military takeover, following which troops roughed up and
arrested vendors and p,.inters of the new newspapers, and
authorities resumed strict control of all government media.
Similarly, large numbers of people who addressed rallies and
crowds of demonstrators in August and early September were
picked up and detained by the authorities or went into hiding.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the Constitution provides for the right of assembly
and association, it exists only for those organizations
permitted by law. Until the recent provision allowing for the
registration of political parties, the Government did not
permit private associations, except for innocuous social
purposes and then only on a very limited basis. All
organizations must be registered formally with the Government
and, in effect, are subject to government control. Public
meetings must be sanctioned by the Government. Although
authorities allowed large-scale demonstrations to take place
in late August and early September, they have once again
cracked down. Following the September 18 takeover, military
authorities decreed that people were not allowed to gather in
groups of more than five. Large numbers of government workers
were sacked for having participated in antigovernment
demonstrations. On September 30, military authorities
announced a new law severely limiting the formation of
associations and organizations and the definitions of both.
The law stated that, in the future, prospective groups or
organizations would have to apply for a permit from the
Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs.
The Government in recent years promulgated two directives that
limit Buddhist monks' right to assembly and association.
Acting through the government-controlled hierarchy of the
monkhood (Sangha), the State has prohibited monks from
attending various forms of public entertainment. While this
has been done, in part, ostensibly to maintain the moral
purity of the Sangha, it is also aimed at curbing the political
activities of monks, one of the most influential groups in
Burmese society and heavily involved in the past year's
antigovernment protests.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Burma is a secular state dominated by the Burman ethnic
group. Freedom of religion is provided for in the
Constitution and, with some exceptions, is observed in
practice. The great majority of Burmese are Buddhist,
although there are sizable Christian, Muslim, and animist
minorities based principally in various minority ethnic
groups. While minority religious groups are allowed to
practice freely, security services monitor the activities of
some religious communities closely. Some persons of mixed
Burman and ethnic minority ancestry have been known to become
Buddhists as a way of strengthening their claim to be
considered ethnic Burmans.
There is considerable social prejudice against Muslims in
Burma. Occasionally this erupts in violence and has led to
government action which infringed on the practice of the
Muslim religion. Following several instances of communal
violence in several towns and cities in Burma in July,
authorities in Rangoon placed restrictions on numbers and
kinds of animals slaughtered for a feast marking the Muslim
holiday of Id Bakri. Fearing a spread of violence to their
community, Rangoon's Muslim leaders observed the restrictions.
Religious groups can and do maintain links with coreligionists
in other countries: for example, the Roman Catholic church
maintains ties to the Vatican. Foreign religious
representatives are usually allowed only tourist visas and are
not permitted to preach, proselytize, or remain to carry out
missionary work. So far as is known, there are no foreign
missionaries resident in Burma. All religious organizations
are reguired to register with the Government. Religious
publications are subject to the same government control and
censorship as other publications. On occasion, the Government
has used a nationalization law to take control of the property
of religious organizations.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution assures Burmese citizens the right to live
anywhere in the country. Except for limitations in areas of
insurgent activity, Burmese citizens can travel freely within
the country but must inform local authorities of their
temporary place of residence. Noncitizen residents, including
persons born in Burma who hold foreigners" registration cards,
must obtain prior permission to travel. Legal requirements
and bureaucratic procedures cause long delays in obtaining
passports, and the right to emigrate is usually, though not
always, denied. Severe limits are placed on what emigrants
are allowed to take with them. Before traveling abroad,
emigrants normally must reimburse the Government for their
university and professional education and pay income tax in
Persons who retain Burmese citizenship and who left the
country legally are generally allowed to return to visit
relatives. Burma does not recognize dual citizenship;
acquiring citizenship in another country results in the loss
of Burmese citizenship. Those who take citizenship in another
country are banned from returning to Burma. Emigrants wishing
to return permanently are required to reapply for Burmese
citizenship. Burmese who leave the country illegally cannot
legally return. There are reported instances of Burmese
abroad being denied permission to enter Burma to visit ill or
dying parents. Burma does not permit foreign refugees or
displaced persons to resettle or seek safehaven within Burma.
The Government treats persons to be refugees as
illegal immigrants and imprisons them. A group of illegal
Vietnamese imprisoned in Rangoon were released in August when
the Government inexplicably opened prisons and jails throughout
Burma. The Vietnamese were sent to resettlement countries,
with the help of third-country embassies. Authorities have
twice imposed a curfew on Rangoon (June and September) and
have imposed curfews on other major towns throughout the
country. In October, all of Burma was under an 8 p.m. to 4
a.m. curfew.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Under the Constitution, Burmese citizens do not enjoy the
right to change their Government. Authorities forcefully
suppressed the Burmese people's widespread and peaceful
demonstrations for democracy; but in response to such
demonstrations, the Government promised elections under a
multiparty system at an unspecified future date. In this
context, laws have been promulgated governing the registration
of political parties. Opposition figures have formed and
registered political parties. Representatives of legally
registered parties are allowed to gather and to speak but must
refrain from antigovernment remarks. The Government retains
the right to disband these parties if they violate the
parameters established by law for their operation.
Ethnic Burmans continue to dominate the political system.
Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, ethnic Burmese, including
indigenous minorities, enjoy advantages that are not available
to immigrants and their immediate descendants. The law
significantly limits the political, residential, and ownership
rights of immigrants (primarily ethnic Chinese and Indians)
whose parents or grandparents are not citizens. Full
citizenship is conferred only on those whose ancestors lived
in Burma prior to the First Anglo-Burman war in 1824. Wom.en
are underrepresented in the Government relative to their
percentage of the general population. There are no women in
the senior ranks of government service above the rank of
director general.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
According to AI , the Government responded directly it for the
first time in August to inform it of the release of prominent
opposition leader Aung Gyi and others who had been arrested in
July. Otherwise the Governm.ent does not permit investigations
of its human rights practices, nor is it willing to discuss
human rights problems with outside governmental or
nongovernmental organizations.
In early September, opposition members established an office,
calling itself Amnesty International of Burma, to monitor the
human rights situation. Since the September 18 military
takeover, local human rights observers have largely avoided a
public role. Burma does not actively participate in
international or regional human rights bodies. The Government
has permitted visits by U.N. organizations such as the
International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to
discuss a few specific issues.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Burma's numerous ethnic m.inorities have their own distinct
cultures and languages. Economic development among minorities
has lagged, and many still live at the subsistence level.
This is due in part to geographic factors which impede
economic development in rugged, isolated, ethnic m.inority
populated border areas. Burma's chronic insurgencies, many of
which are based on minority grievances and on the proceeds
from narcotics production and trafficking, also play a large
role in lagging economic development. Minorities are
under represented in the Government, are largely excluded from
the military leadership, and suffer other forms of
discrimination. Persons of nonethnic Burmese ancestry,
primarily Indians and Chinese, while denied full citizenship
status and excluded from government positions, continue to
play an important role in the economy, a factor resented by
the majority Burmans.
Women in Burma have historically played an active role in
society, but this varies with cultural traditions and ethnic
backgrounds. In general, Burmese v/omen enjoy most of the same
legal rights as men. They keep their own names after marriage,
are active in trade, and often control family finances. As of
1987, more women were entering universities and the civil
service. However, this was tempered by "quota systems" which
ensured that these fields would not be dominated by women,
resulting in a disproportionately large male domination of
both fields.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
There are no genuine trade unions and no independent labor
movement in Burma. Workers do not have the right to organize
independently, to bargain collectively, or to strike. Prior
to the events of July-September 1988, the labor force was
organized into workers' and peasants' mass organizations
controlled by the only legal political party, the BSPP. Most
of the leaders of these organizations were party officials.
and their national leadership was made up of ranking party and
government officials. On September 30, military authorities
announced new laws strictly governing the formation of groups
and organizations. Those wishing to form organizations must
apply for permission to the Ministry of Home and Religious
Affairs. Outlawed organizations include those that attempt to
"incite, encourage, or assist in undermining or stopping the
operation of state administrative machinery." Approved groups
or organizations may gather and make speeches but may not
speak out against the Government. Labor organizations and
other professional associations are not permitted to maintain
independent relations with international private bodies.
Burma is a member of the ILO, although it has been consistently
criticized by the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application
of Conventions and Recommendations (CACR) for failure to
observe ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association which
Burma ratified in 1955. In 1988, as in many previous years,
the CACR urged the Government to bring its legislation and
practice into conformity with the Convention.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
As noted above, workers have no right to bargain collectively.
Labor disputes in both the public and private sectors are
mediated by arbitration boards composed of worker, management,
and government representatives. In practice, these committees
are under strict control by the Government. In the past,
since many public sector workers, management, and government
representatives were all BSPP officials, the process had
little meaning. For a short time during the August and early
September demonstrations and general strike, workers began to
form independent labor unions and strike committees in
virtually every government ministry and economic organization.
These were quickly dissolved following the military takeover.
At the end of 1988, there was no reason to believe workers
would be granted any greater freedom to organize or bargain
collectively under the new military authorities.
No special economic zones exist in Burma.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Burma's legal code does not contain any statutory prohibition
of forced labor. The Burma Army frequently conscripts civilian
males in the vicinity of military operations (primarily in
areas populated by ethnic minorities) to serve as porters.
Some of these porters are killed by mines planted by insurgents
and in military engagements. In mid-October the Government
revealed that 1,120 people had been rounded up for labor and
porter service against the various insurgencies facing the
Government (many sources, including eyewitness accounts,
indicate that by the end of December this figure had increased
significantly and the practice is still continuing). Many of
those seized are reportedly being sent to active military
units. Others allegedly are employed cleaning streets and
rebuilding the partially destroyed Insein prison. Women have
also been conscripted, some being required to work in the
women's ward of Insein prison. Insurgent groups also
press-gang villagers into service as recruits or porters.
Following the September 18 military takeover, troops forced
people to remove neighborhood barricades, sometimes making
them push concrete pipes aside with their heads. There are
unconfirmed reports that in some cases the people were then
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
At present the minimum age for workers is 13. Children
between 13 and 15 may work for 4 hours a day. The penalty for
employees who disregard this regulation is 2 years in prison.
However, the regulation is not strictly enforced.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is a 5-day, 35-hour workweek for employees in the public
sector and a 6-day, 44-hour workweek for private and parastatal
sector employees, with overtime paid for additional work.
However, public sector employees seldom actually work more
than 6 1/2 hours a day. Workers have 21 paid holidays a year,
and there are numerous legal provisions to protect workers'
health and safety, but these are not strictly enforced. The
minimum legal wage is about $1 per day at current official
exchange rates, although at the more realistic free market
rate, this works out to about 25 cents a day. Wages commonly
have lagged far behind inflation and are not nearly enough for
subsistence, particularly in the case of large or extended
families. In the private sector the minimum wage law applies
only to cheroot-rolling plants and rice mills. There are
rules governing health and safety conditions at workplaces,
pertaining to room size, ventilation, fire hazards, and
availability of latrines and drinking water. In practice,
these are seldom enforced, particularly in the private sector