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RENGO Welcomes Release of Aung San Suu Kyi from House Arrest but Strongly Criticizes General Election in Burma

In a statement issued on November 15, RENGO General Secretary Hiroyuki Nagumo welcomed the release on November 13 of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic movement leader in Burma who had been placed under house arrest by the Burmese military government for seven and half years. General Secretary Nagumo said that although the release came much too late, the Burmese people's expectations for democratization were now rising and free political activities by Aung San Suu Kyi must be guaranteed from now on. Meanwhile, General Secretary Nagumo also strongly criticized the general election held in Burma on November 7 as unfair and undemocratic. He said that the general election should be rejected as unacceptable.

The statement by General Secretary Nagumo followed reports that the military government in Burma had released Aung San Suu Kyi in order to parry criticism from the international community and demonstrate that it was following its own democratization plans; however, prospects for the military government's democratization process remain obscure. As for the general election, the statement said that the election administration commission had reported that about 80% of the results of vote counting had been made clear and that the political party succeeding the party of the military junta had gained about 70% of seats in the upper and lower houses of the federal parliament. However, the statement said, the general election had been far from "a free, fair and democratic election in which all the people concerned take part," as demanded by the international community. The statement concluded that the election had been nothing but a sham poll planned to strengthen control by the military government.

General Secretary Nagumo also pointed out that the general election had been held under a constitution and election laws enacted with the purpose of continuing and strengthening the military government; in addition, international election monitoring groups had been denied entry to the country, and foreign mass media had been prohibited from moving around freely. Moreover, illegal acts, such as false uses of paper ballots and coercion to vote for the party linked to the military government, had been rampant. It was reported that elections in the regions, which are hostile to the military government, had been cancelled and that about 1.5 million people, including ethnic minority groups, had been excluded from voting.

Finally, General Secretary Nagumo appealed to the international community, including Japan, to call in unison for the earliest release of about 2,100 political prisoners and the establishment of a United Nations investigation commission to investigate violations of human rights in Burma. He also demanded that the military government in Burma starts dialogues with ethnic minority groups and democratization forces, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

G20 Labour Summit in Seoul

According to the RENGO News dated November 18, trade union organizations in G20 countries, including RENGO and the Global Unions including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) , held a Labour Summit in Seoul on November 10 and 11 in connection with the G20 Summit held in that city on the same days. The objective was to have the opinions of trade unions reflected in discussions at the G20 Seoul Summit. At the Labour Summit, about 60 trade union leaders from around the world took part. RENGO was represented by President Nobuyuki Koga and other leaders.

The greatest concern of trade unions in relation to the G20 Summit in Seoul was the fact that while unemployment rates remain at high levels and the employment situation has not improved at all in the countries concerned, including Japan, the policy priority of each country is shifting toward trying to put public finances on a healthy footing. Therefore, the trade unions demanded adherence to the idea confirmed at the 2009 Pittsburgh Summit of "putting quality jobs at the heart of recovery."

In order to convey the opinions of trade unions, trade union leaders met attending government leaders and representatives of related international governmental organizations, including South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In the meeting with Prime Minister Kan, attended by RENGO President Koga, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, ITUC Asia and Pacific General Secretary Noriyuki Suzuki, Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) President Jang Seok-chun, Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Brendan Barber, and others, the labour leaders urged the necessity of focusing discussions on employment issues and demanded that a meeting of G20 employment and labour ministers be held early next year. Prime Minister Kan responded by saying that "decent work, employment creation, green jobs, and other issues proposed by the trade unions are very important matters, and I myself will express my opinions as so at the G20 Summit." Prime Minister Kan also made clear his idea that "there can be no growth without employment, and the course of a virtuous cycle linked to fiscal reconstruction should be paved by concentrating financial expenditures for growth on employment." As a result of these activities, some of the trade union demands were incorporated in the G20 Leaders' Declaration and the Seoul Summit Document.

RENGO Strongly Condemns North Korea's Shell Attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island

In a statement issued on November 24, RENGO General Secretary Hiroyuki Nagumo described North Korea's shell attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island as a military attack on an island where many civilian people live that was totally impermissible from a humanitarian point of view. Strongly condemning North Korea, General Secretary Nagumo also stated that, together with North Korea's uranium enrichment activities for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, which Pyongyang had earlier revealed to US experts, the bombardment was a reckless act against world peace that should never be tolerated.

General Secretary Nagumo expressed the hope that South Korea and North Korea, as well as the other countries concerned, would respond calmly so as not to invite a worsening of the situation. He also urged the Japanese government to prepare and make thorough arrangements for any unforeseen incidents.

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