Since the military junta seized absolute power on 01 February this year and dismantled all democratic institutions, the military continues arresting union leaders who are part of Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) Committee. At least two union leaders from All Burmese Federation of Trade Unions (ABFTU) and Myanmar Industry Craft Service – Trade Unions Federation (MICS-TUsF) were arrested within June-July 2021.

The military raided MICS-TUsF office in Myint Nge, Amarapura on June 14 and South Dagon, Yangon  on June 15 and briefly interrogated Ko Aung Thura, MICS organizer in South Dagon. Around 60 soldiers were deployed to raid house of MICS-TUsF General Secretary, Thet Hnin Aung on June 14. This was the second raid after the first one on April 15 when the military ambushed Myint Nge village, Amarapura, Mandalay. His family has been a strong supporter of CDM and helping railway workers and all CDM workers in Myint Nge, Amarapura, Mandalay.

A series of arrests have been taking place intended to dismantle the structure of the CDM in some regions especially Yangon, Mandalay, and Sagaing. Besides dismantling CDM structures, the junta has launched a systemic attack against trade unions, considered as a political threat with most of the workers pledged in support of the CDM.

With martial law enforced at major industrial zones and townships in Yangon and Mandalay, the junta has applied various forms of surveillance to monitor activities and mobility of workers and trade unions. Those forms of surveillance include: regular inspections at township labour offices to check any unions or labour rights organizations that are still active in advocating workers’ rights; factory raids; extrajudicial killings and abductions at Xing Jia Factory and arrest of union leaders active in the local CDM committee.

The junta pressured companies in the industrial zones to report any workers activities including workplace gatherings and mobilizations in front of or within the factories compounds. Regarding MICS-TUsF, the military council instructed the Minister of Labour and Immigration and Population (MOLIP) to closely monitor the activities and movement of MICS-TUsF leaders.

At present at least ten unionists are imprisoned and one was released recently from a military camp in Shwe Pyi Thar.
  • Ko Nyi Nyi Su, Hmawbi Township Union President, affiliated to Myanmar Industry Craft Service-Trade Union Federation (MICS-TUsF) arrested on February 18. Now he is at Insein Prison
  • Daw Myo Ae, Director of Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar (STUM) was arrested on April 15. Now at Insein Prison with prolonged court hearing
  • Ma Ze Te Oo, Suntime JCK worker, STUM member detained at Insein Prison together with Ma Myo Ae. She was arrested on March 14
  • Three workers from Xing Jia Factory arrested on March 16 and sentenced for 3 year imprisonment on April 12, now at Insein Prison
  • U Thet Hnin Aung, General Secretary of Myanmar Industry Craft and Service-Trade Unions Federation (MICS-TUsF) and part of Mandalay CDM Committee, detained at Shwe Pyi Thar Interrogation Center. The information of his detention was obtained on July 7
  • Ko Khine Min, member of Central Executive Committee of All Burma Federation Trade Union (ABFTU) and Sagaing CDM committee, arrested in Yaynanchaung Mandalay on June 13
    Juty Aung, BWFM organizer arrested in Hmawbi on May 25
  • Ma Mi Mi Aung, BWFM member arrested in Hmawbi on April 25
  • Kyi Min Htaik, STUM organizer was arrested on June 1 and detained at Shwe Pyi Thar military camp and was released early July

Around 23 teachers/education workers were arrested and 81 education sector workers charged with penal code 505-A and 150,000 workers dismissed from their jobs; 7 healthcare workers arrested and 241 doctors and 69 nurses charged with penal code 505-A. Further, based on NUG data on 4 July, 39 journalists are still arrested with 6 sentenced and charged with Penal Code 505-A.

Myanmar Banker Union (MBU) reported that at least 4,600 bank workers in Yangon and other parts of Myanmar are under threat for participating in the CDM. The Bank Workers Trade Union Federation-Myanmar (BWTUFM), affiliated to MICS-TUsF reported that more than 1,200 bank workers from 143 bank branches in Mandalay are under threat of losing their jobs and arrest.

In reports from human rights organisations last week, the situation in Myanmar is deteriorating rapidly. While the junta reported it had released 2,300 political prisoners from prison last week, this figure is unable to be confirmed. Meanwhile there is reported an increase in abduction of family members, including whole families, when the junta is unable to find a leader or organiser they are hunting. In the midst of this repression, peaceful demonstrations continue across the country daily.

This new front of attack to demobilise the labour movement has been emboldened by a muted response from the international community to the demand of the people for recognition of the NUG and targeted sanctions against senior military and military entities.  Further, ASEAN’s 5-point plan rather than a pathway forward to re-instate democracy, appears to have provided a platform for the junta to consolidate its illegitimate authority.  The recent trip to Russia by the Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing only serves to further heighten the geopolitical divide.

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA and Mondiaal FNV (the trade union solidarity organisation of FNV in the Netherlands)

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