Myanmar's military government on Monday rejected claims by the UN's labour agency that there was forced labour in the country, saying the practice was wiped out 16 years ago.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) last month decided to bring its concerns about forced labour here before the UN Security Council and international courts in The Hague after years of frustration over the junta's inaction.
But Myanmar's deputy labour minister Major General Aung Kyi told a rare press conference that the practice had been practically wiped out after 1990.
Before then, he said, armed conflicts with ethnic insurgent groups had led to "labour contribution" -- meaning forced labour.
"What is unusual here is that ILO has never made any complaint before 1990 when a host of labour contributions were used," he said.
"But now they are crying out at a time when there is practically no forced labour."
The ILO has been trying for almost a decade to get Myanmar's government to crack down on forced labour, but a mission to the country ended in October at an impasse on how to respond to complaints of forced labour.
The labour agency had attempted to set up a "credible mechanism" to deal with complaints and to guarantee the protection of plaintiffs.