More than 3 million people have been forced into slave labor under the military government in Myanmar, according to a Myanmarese labor leader visiting Japan.

Maung Maung, secretary general of the outlawed Federation of Trade Unions-Burma, said that Japan should not resume official development assistance to Myanmar, saying that such assistance will strengthen the junta.

Maung Maung, 48, said that since the junta came to power in the late 1980s, the economy has deteriorated because of sanctions placed on the country.

With the national budget under pressure, the proportion devoted to military expenditure has expanded to nearly 50 percent, he said.

Due to the lack of money, the military government has been forcing farmers to build dams, roads and military facilities without pay.

Poverty and famine are subsequently becoming serious problems in rural areas, as farmers are unable to attend to their fields.

According to Maung Maung, foreign aid is being funneled to the military and Japan will be unable to clearly monitor what its aid is used for.

European countries and the International Labor Organization have voiced concerns over the use of forced labor in Myanmar and have toughened their sanctions on the military government.

Tokyo is considering resuming aid to Myanmar, following the beginning in October of talks between the military and prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Japan suspended assistance to Myanmar in 1988 when the junta took power.

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