The struggle for democracy in Myanmar continues with the call for the recognition of the legitimacy of the National Unity Government (NUG) of the Republic Union of Myanmar at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 14-30 September 2021, and beyond. Strategies for concerted actions in support of this call were discussed in the meeting organised by ITUC-Asia Pacific, together with the Confederation Trade Union Myanmar (CTUM) and Global Union Federations (GUFs) in the Asia-Pacific region on 17 August 2021.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific, presented the objectives of the meeting: to discuss and strategise the campaign for the recognition of the NUG with the national and international trade union movement, parliamentarians from different countries, and the ministers of the NUG.
The call for NUG’s recognition at the UNGA and beyond
Four ministers of the NUG outlined their strategies to push for the recognition of the NUG at the UNGA and beyond. NUG Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration U Lwin Ko Latt presented their two-pronged goals of (i) NUG’s recognition as the legitimate government of Myanmar and (ii) the rejection of the military regime’s legitimacy. To build the trust of the international community, the NUG expressed its commitment to adhere to democratic principles as well as to international norms and standards. It also set up the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of legitimately elected members of the parliament, and started working with diverse groups and sectors to build a sound democratic country through the National Unity Consultative Council.
Nai Suwana, NUG Minister of Labour, said, “At the 109th International Labour Conference, the military representation was not accepted. Now, at the upcoming UNGA, we hope that the Credentials Committee of the UN will follow the same path.” He also highlighted the importance of the domestic and international support to increase the pressure not only on the UN member-states, but also on the military junta.
NUG Deputy Minister U Moe Zaw Oo also called for the support and solidarity of the trade unions recognising their platforms and mechanisms to influence international advocacy spaces. “Once we are in full power, we commit to maintain our good relationship with the trade unions and workers,” he said.
U Thein Oo, NUG Minister of Justice, likewise said that the NUG is committed to work on an inclusive approach to obtain justice for the Myanmar society based on the principles of freedom, justice, and social and economic inclusion – absent of extrajudicial killings, forced labour, and ethnic conflict. He assured that the workers, women, farmers, the landless, and ethnic groups, among others, will be supported to be empowered.
Saw Ta Do Moo, General Secretary Karen National Union KNU, and U Kyaw Htwe, Member of Parliament National League for Democracy NLD, were also present in the meeting to share the ongoing efforts and roles to collectively fight and overthrow the dictatorship, create a collective leadership model, and promote democratic and federal practices in Myanmar.
Garnering support from parliamentarians
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is keen in pushing for the international recognition of the NUG and deny the legitimacy of the military junta in every way. Kasit Piromya of APHR said that because most ASEAN countries are authoritarian and are rather considerate of the military junta, it is difficult to rely on the ASEAN for support. However, APHR will continue to push the ASEAN while also putting pressure on the UN.
The campaign for the international recognition of the NUG also gained the support of parliamentarians from other countries, such as Japan, particularly through the efforts of the Japan Parliamentary Group Supporting Democratization in Myanmar. Meanwhile, Union Aid New Zealand ensures that the people of New Zealand are aware of the situation in Myanmar and supports the fundraising campaign for the striking workers.
International trade unions’ solidarity with the people of Myanmar
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of ITUC, underlined the commitment of international trade union movement to support the workers in Myanmar and the recognition of the legitimacy of NUG. She said that recognition of the NUG by individual governments worldwide, and at the UNGA in particular, is crucial in order to mount pressure on the military junta to stop the violent repression of the people and to restore the power to the civilian democratic government.
Meanwhile, Ambet Yuson, Secretary General of Building and Wood Worker’s International (BWI), said that all of the country’s forests are managed by the state, with the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), a state-run company, holding a monopoly over the trade. BWI is committed to continue its campaign to prevent the entry of timber from Myanmar to the international market by calling for the imposition of sanctions on the importation of timber from Myanmar.
With respect to the recognition of the NUG at the UNGA, it would be strategic to specifically target and influence the Maldivian government, considering that it will be presiding this year’s UNGA. Hidayat Greenfield, Regional Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations – Asia Pacific (IUF-Asia Pacific), shared that initiatives to lobby with the Maldivian government are in place in the lead up to the UNGA.
U Maung Maung, the President of Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM) hopes that leaders of democratic countries who have already spoken out against the junta, including the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and various European states, will endorse the NUG as the rightful government. He also thanked the international trade union movement for its continued support to CTUM and workers in Myanmar.
The meeting also invited all participants to the ASEAN Plus 6 Tripartite Social Dialogue towards Decent Work and Democracy in Myanmar to be held on 30 August 2021 which is jointly organised by the ITUC-Asia Pacific, CTUM, ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), and ASEAN Service Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC).