Global Unions in Asia Pacific call for restoration of democracy and respect for fundamental rights in Myanmar

The resolution reaffirmed a commitment to ILC.109 Resolution II (Resolution for a return to democracy and respect for fundamental human rights in Myanmar), denounced the military coup and recognised the NUG as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

Since February 2021, Myanmar has been in the grip of a military junta that has brutally attacked workers and communities. The National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (NUG) was established on 16 April by the democratically-elected members of Parliament (Phyidaungsu Hluttaw), in collaboration with various political parties, including representatives of the National League of Democracy (NLD); trade unions; ethnic peoples; and civil society organisations, including youth and women’s organisations in Myanmar.

On 30 August 2021, PSI co-organised a special ASEAN +6 Regional Social Dialogue (ARSD) session to explore ways to contribute to the Myanmar peoples' call for the international community to recognise the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate representative of the people of Myanmar. The event was organised by the ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC), other Global Union Federations in the Asia Pacific region, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Asia Pacific), the ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), and the Confederation of Trade Unions, Myanmar (CTUM).

The session was addressed by several speakers, including Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong, Minister of Federal Union Affairs of NUG, who delivered a keynote speech on behalf of the Prime Minister of NUG. In his address, Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong noted that in recent weeks, the NUG had taken important actions to support workers in the country, particularly those within the public sector who have taken part in recent struggles and are battling against the Covid-19 pandemic. Emphasising the NUG’s commitment to democracy and decent work, Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong affirmed: “We are committed to erase authoritarian laws that degrade human and labour rights.”

He also paid tribute to the “Myanmar workers and trade unionists who have paid an incredible price for decades, including extra-judicial killings, forced labour, lack of labour rights, recruitment of children into the army, and perpetual ethnic conflicts.” Against these conditions, Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong declared that under the NUG, “workers would be empowered by allowing them to freely exercise their rights to form and join unions of their own choosing.”

Other speakers included Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), who urged fellow parliamentarians to cross party lines and unite in persuading respective governments to take urgent action against the military junta, and ​​Sandar Phyo, Deputy Member of the ILO Governing Board, who said that recognition of the NUG is “crucial to return power to the people and end the military junta’s violent dictatorship.”

Bringing together this diverse range of voices from across the Asia Pacific region, a resolution was adopted, calling for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar to advance decent work. The resolution reaffirmed a commitment to ILC.109 Resolution II (Resolution for a return to democracy and respect for fundamental human rights in Myanmar); denounced the military coup and recognised the NUG as the legitimate government of Myanmar. It noted deep concern for ongoing abuse, discrimination, and displacement of ethnic peoples from militarisation of their states, including the Rohingya people; and recognised the increasing number of attacks on healthcare workers in Myanmar.

The resolution also called on institutions and individuals across the region – in governments, UN bodies, the private sector, and the labour movement – to act within their power to reject the claim of the military junta to represent the people of Myanmar in any UN official functions, and to ensure that the NUG is recognised as the legitimate government of Myanmar at the forthcoming UN General Assembly. This included calls to sever business and aid ties with the military, including a request for the private sector to take various steps to “cease direct or indirect business operations in Myanmar that directly or indirectly provide finance, including through the extraction of taxes, or material support, to the military.”

On 13 September, a day before the UN General Assembly, the Council of Global Unions (CGU) will launch a Global Day of Action to call on the United Nations to recognise the NUG as the legitimate government of Myanmar.