Uzbekistan: Traffic offenders 'forced to pick cotton'

A cotton field

People who commit traffic offences in Uzbekistan are forced to pick cotton for a week to get their licence back, it's claimed.

They join college students, teachers and businessmen who are "encouraged" to take to the fields during the month-long harvest, according to Moscow-based opposition news agency Ferghana. The site also suggests shops and cafes in the region must stay shut until 7pm "to discourage people from shopping and entertainment during the cotton harvest". Meanwhile, the regional government paper, Toshkent Haqiqati, has published a poem telling readers: "If you are a patriot of the Motherland, join the nation, take part in the cotton harvest charity campaign." It says MPs are setting an example by joining in.

Growing international pressure has forced the central Asian country to reduce its reliance on child labour, finding cheap or free alternatives, Ferghana suggests. Doctors are among those forced to take part. News website Uzmetronom says international observers are monitoring for child labour. Despite that, unconfirmed reports on Radio Free Europe suggest a boy, six, suffocated under a cotton load while sleeping in a trailer and a journalist who was investigating the use of child labour was said to have been arrested.

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