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BOSTON, MA (February 3, 2002) -- The American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) and the Free Burma Coalition (FBC) today announced a campaign of protest over the fact that parts of the 2002 Winter Olympic Torchbearer
uniforms were made in Burma.
The international community has repeatedly condemned Burma's military regime for employing a brutal system of forced labor. Burmese soldiers routinely conscript villagers to work on construction projects, carry supplies, or even sweep for landmines. Many of the victims are beaten or raped; none are paid for their labor.
In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) called the system of forced labor in Burma "a saga of untold misery and suffering."
"Every purchase of a made-in-Burma product supports this regime," explained AASG's David Moore. Responding to the pro-democracy movement inside Burma, numerous companies, governments, and unions have cut ties with Burma. "Everyone else is getting out of Burma -- and with good reason," added Moore. "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should follow suit."
Ironically, AASG staffers first learned about this development when escaped Sudanese slave Francis Bok donned his uniform to carry the Olympic torch past historic Plymouth Rock.
Over a thousand on-line activists have already lodged complaints with the IOC.
Historically, the IOC has functioned above politics, but in extreme cases -- such as the banning of South Africa from the games during the Apartheid era -- it has taken measures against brutally oppressive regimes. "We understand the IOC's desire to avoid political issues," argued FBC Washington, DC Director Jeremy Woodrum, "but forced labor and slavery are so universally reviled that the Olympics is undermining the very values it aims to promote."
Not bothering to wait for the IOC, the Norwegian Olympic team recently refused to wear clothing made in Burma.
"We hope that this was simply a mistake by the Olympics," Moore stated. "But now, the IOC should apologize for this mistake and promise to never support -- indirectly or directly -- the Burmese regime."
Take action now, go to the American Anti-Slavery Group website:
American Anti-Slavery Group
Contact: David Moore
Free Burma Coalition
Contacts: Jeremy Woodrum, Aung Din