Statement from Verité and Verité Southeast Asia (VSEA)
Verité and VSEA stand in solidarity with the labor rights movement and the people of Myanmar in condemning the military coup which took place on February 1, 2021. Furthermore, Verité and VSEA strongly denounce the violent crackdown perpetrated by the Myanmar military and police forces against its citizens practicing their right to peacefully protest. As of March 30, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has reported as many as 521 casualties, as well as 2,608 individuals who have been arrested, charged, or sentenced as a result of the military response to protests that have emerged throughout the country.
Workers in numerous economic sectors, including those working in garments and especially female workers, have played a key role in responding to the unlawful military coup by organizing and joining protests and participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). On March 7, a coalition of 18 trade union federations, unions, and labor organizations called for a general strike to exert pressure on the coup government. As a result of this worker response, numerous trade unions and labor organizations have been declared illegal in a further erosion of labor rights and freedom of association in the country. The coup government has issued arrest warrants for at least 71 labor union leaders for their role in the protests. Factory workers have been fired for participating in protests and the CDM movement, and thousands have been threatened by their employers with dismissal for their participation.
In Hlaing Tharyar, a major industrial zone and host to 700 garment factories, 60 protestors were killed on March 16. It is likely that workers’ role in the CDM influenced the selection of Hlaing Tharyar as the site of brutal and excessive violence by the military. The production of garments is a key sector in Myanmar’s economy, making up 30 percent of the country’s exports and providing over 700,000 jobs prior to the pandemic. The township is also home to the largest contingent of internal migrant workers in the country, of whom hundreds of thousands are thought to have returned to their communities of origin to escape the violence.
Labor groups have issued urgent calls of action to global actors, including brands, to issue statements and to take measures to support striking workers in Myanmar, who are being prevented from expressing their fundamental right to freedom of expression. It is vital that all international brands and manufacturers with operations in Myanmar heed the calls of workers and the groups that represent them. In particular, it is of utmost importance for global brands to urgently issue public statements and guidance to their suppliers demanding that no workers in Myanmar factories are to be dismissed, disciplined, or discouraged in any way from participating in the CDM. Furthermore, international brands and companies should ensure that their suppliers are not penalized or unpaid for production delays and late/non-delivery of orders and conduct sufficient due diligence to ensure they do not engage with businesses owned by the junta or members of it.
A selection of statements and calls of action from both Myanmar and international labor groups are presented in the following list. Verité and VSEA call on all international brands and manufacturers who source goods from Myanmar to respect and adopt these recommendations.
- Statement of the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM)
- Statements of the Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM)
- Statement of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and other signatory organizations, including Both ENDS, the Solidarity Center, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), and We Women Foundation
 “Daily Briefing in Relation to the Military Coup.” Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). March 30, 2021. https://aappb.org/?p=13971.
 “Myanmar Labor Organizations Joint Call for Extended Nationwide Work-Stoppage to Save Our Democracy.” March 7, 2021. https://www.solidaritycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Myanmar.Joint-Strike-Statement-English.March-2021-1.pdf
 Conradt, Kate. “Myanmar: Unions Organize General Strike as Military Violently Cracks Down.” Solidarity Center. March 9, 2021. https://www.solidaritycenter.org/myanmar-unions-organize-general-strike-as-military-violently-cracks-down/
 Kuo, Lily and Shibani Mahtani. “As Myanmar protesters torch Chinese factories, workers are caught in spiraling crisis.” Washington Post. March 17, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-myanmar-coup-military/2021/03/17/39989378-86c2-11eb-be4a-24b89f616f2c_story.html
 Turton, Shaun. “Myanmar coup clouds future of country’s crucial garment industry.” Nikkei Asia. February 10, 2021. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Coup/Myanmar-coup-clouds-future-of-country-s-crucial-garment-industry
 “Full Support for Democracy, Peace, Rule of Law in Myanmar: IOM Statement.” IOM. March 17, 2021. https://www.iom.int/news/full-support-democracy-peace-rule-law-myanmar-iom-statement
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