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Myanmar rejects 'white phosphorus' claim report
by Staff Writers
Yangon (AFP) Feb 16, 2013


Germany demands probe of Amazon work conditions
Berlin (AFP) Feb 17, 2013 - A German government minister called Sunday for a thorough probe into allegations that foreign seasonal workers hired in Germany by US online retail giant Amazon were harassed and intimidated.

Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that any proof of wrongdoing could result in serious consequences for the temporary employment agency used by Amazon.

"There is a strong suspicion here which is why we need to lay all the facts on the table," she said.

"If the investigation shows there is something to the accusations against the temporary placement agency then its licence is at risk."

A public television documentary broadcast Wednesday said workers brought in from crisis-hit countries such as Spain to help at Amazon warehouses faced bullying from security personnel, some of whom wore clothing associated with neo-Nazi groups.

It added that Amazon paid the workers less than advertised and that their belongings were regularly searched in the temporary housing they were provided.

Services union Verdi has long accused Amazon of paying its seasonal workers unfair wages and going overboard on surveillance.

The US company, which has about 7,700 people on staff in Germany and hires additional temporary workers at peak times, said it was looking into the allegations and would not tolerate intimidation at its sites.

Hensel European Security Services, the company targeted in the documentary, also denied any wrongdoing.

"The accusation that our company harbours far-right views or supports them is false," it said in a statement.

It confirmed that its staff had searched temporary workers' rooms but said this had taken place with the agreement of the hotel and in order to investigate reported theft.

Myanmar on Saturday dismissed an independent report that alleged security forces used white phosphorus in a crackdown on a copper mine protest last year, which left dozens of people injured.

The pre-dawn raid on protest camps at the Chinese-backed mine in northern Myanmar in November was the toughest clampdown on demonstrators since a reformist government came to power in early 2011.

A network of lawyers sent a canister discovered at the site in Monywa to a laboratory overseas which was found to contain military-issue white phosphorus that can lead to serious injuries, their report said.

But presidential spokesman Ye Htut dismissed the report without commenting on its findings, saying the government would only recognise a separate parliamentary probe being conducted by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We do not study or give comment on individual inquiries," he told AFP, adding that the report could "disturb" the work of Suu Kyi's commission.

The lawyers group, which submitted its findings to the Nobel laureate in late January, this week released a final draft of its report claiming government forces used "excessive force" in breaking up the mine demonstration.

It added that senior local officials acted on behalf of the mine -- a joint venture between Chinese firm Wanbao and military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings -- and "misused their powers to punish villagers opposed to selling their land".

Activists said about 100 people were injured in the crackdown. Some suffered severe burns. The government has since apologised to senior Buddhist clerics over injuries sustained by monks who were at the forefront of the protest.

President Thein Sein's office initially said that tear gas and smoke bombs were used against the protesters, but denied allegations by local media that a form of chemical weapon was deployed.

Chinese-backed projects to tap Myanmar's abundant natural resources have sparked resentment among local residents. Opponents are calling for work at the mine to be suspended to allow environmental and social impact studies.

Suu Kyi's commission was originally supposed to present its findings by the end of January, but the date has been postponed, with members of the inquiry suggesting a decision would not be before late February.

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