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Democracy must be returned to Myanmar

27 January, 2023It’s been two years since the military seized power in Myanmar. As workers risk their lives to restore democracy, we must continue to voice opposition and demonstrate solidarity support.

The situation for workers in Myanmar drastically deteriorated after the military coup in February 2021. Most unions are now banned, and many workers who were once protected by collective agreements have been fired and replaced by casual workers with no rights.

After the coup, the military started cracking down on unions and its members, with violent attacks and arrests.

Currently, more than 60 trade unionists are imprisoned on trumped up charges, who must be immediately released.

Investments have long-term impacts on labour rights. In September 2021, IndustriALL launched a disinvestment campaign, calling on all companies operating there to cease operations and place no new orders.

Writing to all companies in the sectors we represent operating in Myanmar, emphasis was put on the fact that due diligence is not possible in a country ruled by a military regime and where unions cannot operate. Some companies did pull out early, among them are Total, Chevron, Woodside, Telenor, Tesco, Benetton, Aldi South, C&A.

Towards the end of last year, discussions on a responsible exit from the country began with a number of garment brands, and several brands, including Primark and New Look, have stopped placing new orders Myanmar.

“In some sense there is progress,” says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie. “But the military is still unlawfully in power in Myanmar and continues to violate human and workers’ rights, so we need to keep up the pressure.”

The global unions are calling for an unequivocal recognition of the credentials of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) at international and national levels as the one and true democratic government of the Myanmar people.

“By recognising the NUG, we safeguard the human and trade union rights of Myanmar’s working people, and once and for all, put an end to the military junta’s brutal dictatorship and false representation of the country before the international community.”

(Global union statement, October 2022)

One year after the military coup, the global trade union movement pledged not to rest until power is returned to the people.

Says Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary:

“Another year has passed where the people of Myanmar continue to pay a high price at the hands of the violent military junta. This anniversary, join us reiterating the call that democracy must be returned to Myanmar.”