Myanmar has been in turmoil since February 2021, after the military junta threw over a democratically elected government. There have been widespread protests by various sections of society including artists, workers, teachers, poets, and civil servants, among others. The Unions have played an important role in challenging the undemocratic nature of the military rule and attacks on workers and their rights.
The PSI Congress, held in October 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland, adopted a resolution condemning the coup, urging all governments to recognise the democratically elected National Unity Government, and calling on pension funds to divest from corporations supporting the military junta. The resolution applauded the workers who initiated and have sustained strikes and civil disobedience against military occupation. The text of the resolution is available here (pg. 38).
On the occasion, Khaing Zar Aung, trade unionist from Myanmar, spoke about crimes of the military and urged everyone to hold them responsible in the light of the report by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Khaing Zar is President of the Industrial Workers' Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) and Treasurer at the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM).
Following is the text of her speech and video of her presentation.
Good morning brothers and sisters. I am Khaing Zar, the President of the Industrial Workers' Federation of Myanmar.
The military staged the coup on 1st February, 2021. My country has become the victim of a genocidal military junta since then. The military bombed villages with planes and helicopters, destroying tens of villages and towns, burning alive tens of people, and killing villagers.
These actions of the military have displaced more than 2.5 million people.
Urge multinational companies to disinvest from Myanmar to stop financial flows to the military junta. And [urge] pension funds to divest from all corporations continuing to operate in Myanmar.
Last week, on 9th October, the Myanmar military attacked a refugee camp in Kachin State with a series of airstrikes that killed 29 internally displaced people (IDPs). At least 11 of the 29 people killed were children, and 56 people were injured.
Early this month, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) released a report [on the violations] committed by the junta. Their findings on the violations of forced labour and the Right to Freedom of Association in the report are very detailed.
In the statement issued by the Director General of the ILO regarding the COI report, he asked whether the junta agreed to the report issued by the COI and continue working with the ILO to eliminate the crimes or whether they will go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)?
We, the Myanmar trade union movement, would like to request you to urge your governments to support the ILO Governing Body's decision to invoke article (33) like GB decision in 2000. After that, please help endorse. After endorsement, we need to enforce it. How to do it? If you see a company working in Myanmar, pls, report to PSI -- as we work closely with PSI AP, and we will follow up.
Please support the campaign on recognition for the National Unity Government at the UN, ILO and bilateral level;
Please urge the EU to withdraw the everything but arms trade preference from Myanmar; and
Please urge multinational companies to disinvest from Myanmar to stop financial flows to the military junta. And [urge] pension funds to divest from all corporations continuing to operate in Myanmar. All the multinational companies who continue doing business in Myanmar are accomplices of the military.
Lastly, we request the delegates of the PSI Congress to support the resolution on Myanmar.
Myanmar trade union movement thank PSI for supporting us to stop atrocity and to restore democracy in Myanmar.