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“Working in Myanmar is like modern slavery”

9 December, 2021Nearly eleven months into military rule in Myanmar, trade unions in the country say that the dictatorship must end immediately, as democratic rule is essential for protecting workers’ rights.

On 7 December, IndustriALL hosted a webinar in solidarity for the fight for democracy in Myanmar.

Ten months after the military coup d’état and the overthrow of the democratically elected National League for Democracy government, the political and economic situation is worsening in Myanmar.

According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, since February, 1,305 Myanmar people have been killed and 7,823 are in detention.

Khaing Zar, president of IndustriALL affiliate Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) and CTUM treasurer, said that many garment employers use the military dictatorship to ignore labour laws and violate collective agreements. And there are instances where workers protest for unpaid wages or cut benefits and employers have brought in soldiers against the protesting workers.

Khaing Zar added:

“Without a democratic government, there are no workers’ rights. The current working situation is comparable to modern slavery. If brands continue investing in Myanmar, they are indirectly financing the military regime and endangering people. The European Union should immediately withdraw the Everything But Arms trade privilege.”

IndustriALL has called on multinationals doing business in Myanmar to take immediate action to cease operations, divest, stop placing new orders, and halt business relations in the country, as part of a campaign of comprehensive economic sanctions against the military junta.

IndustriALL congress in September adopted an emergency resolution in support of the democratic struggle in Myanmar, calling for comprehensive economic sanctions against the military junta. The decision to call for sanctions was made by the labour movement of Myanmar and supported by trade unions and activists around the world.

In the webinar on 7 December, trade unionists from India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines expressed solidarity with Myanmar unionists in their pro-democracy struggle.

“We stand together with our Myanmar brothers and sisters, as well as with the national unity government. We must fight for a return of democracy in Myanmar where the labour movement can freely carry out its work,”

IndustriALL vice president Akira Takakura told participants.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Ozkan said:

“It is critically important that the ILO recognize the national unity government permanently. And the military regime must be isolated. We reiterate our call on multinational companies to choose the side of humanity and democracy. Our core message is that human rights violations in Myanmar make it impossible to trade ethically, as companies are not able to guarantee the safety of their workforce.”