Countering the mounting outrage of the people of Myanmar over the military coup, Myanmar’s military declared martial law in major parts of the country in an attempt to further tighten its grip on the power and control that it seized after the general elections. Under the martial law, the ruling military of Myanmar arbitrarily detained the leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Mynt, along with cabinet ministers and other activists. It also banned all public gatherings and other forms of protests and denied freedom of association and freedom of expression to the working people of Myanmar. On 28 February, the so-called bloodiest day of protests, the violent crackdown left 18 protesters dead, bringing the total number of casualties to 21 since the start of the coup.
The martial law in Myanmar is likewise an atrocious attack on the country’s labour movement and its workers’ labour rights. Recently, the military regime declared that sixteen labour-related organisations are illegal. This means that legal actions can be taken by the military regime against such organisations if their activities continued. Moreover, the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM) reported that several union activists who participated in the civil disobedience movement and labour strikes are currently being hunted by the police and military officers. These actions clearly violate the ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise ratified by Myanmar in 1955 and ultimately damage industrial relations in the country.
The International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) decries the brazen repression of labour activities in Myanmar. Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of ITUC-AP, reiterates the ITUC’s calls to all affiliates to (1) exert pressure on their national governments to demand the Myanmar military to immediately release all persons arbitrarily detained, remove restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and defend the rights of the people of Myanmar to choose their own government and (2) urge all companies that operate or invest in Myanmar to end their commercial ties with the Myanmar military and use their leverage to secure the release of detainees, restore democratic institutions, and guarantee the human and labour rights of all people in Myanmar.
ITUC-AP stands firmly in solidarity with CTUM, Myanmar’s workers, and the people of Myanmar in their struggle to reclaim peace, justice, and democracy in their country.